On Pelican Reef

Pelicans in pairs
prehistoric, with great sagging bills
like canvas bladders of beer refilling
fly in almost perfect formation

black leader circling once
and then heading straight down
the beachline here, very low
avoiding radar and unafraid of us.

At the last they wheel up steeply
swerving left, ascending to allow gravity
its killing work, they stall and turn
point guards shifting hips and then fall

no more than a foot apart, yellow dead eyes
ringed, certain, wings disappearing
into the stream’s ideal line.
In the beat before impact

their bodies bulk, beaks opening
into factories of the new death
their shadows darkening the surface
world and then they righten

dredging through their catch
siphoning into digestion the unfortunates
and all of this life and death happens
no more than ten feet from where we sit

agawk, both man and child
at the beauty of nature’s design
here in the non-existent surf
of a matchless Caribbean morning.

[Mahoe Bay, Virgin Gorda 2005]