Futile, – the winds –
My sister once told me
That when it gets hot enough in Arizona—
And it always does this time of year—
The wayward pelicans, lost
On their migration North, see steam rising
From the desert road and confuse it with the surface of water.
Seeking refuge from the heat, they plunge
Into the mirage.
The concrete receives them,
Snapping their bones.
When we were children,
My sister placed gifts beneath a stone
On the porch outside our window while I slept.
She left me tattered feathers,
Spines of dry urchins,
Sometimes she would crack open the discs,
Arranging the dove-shaped shards
In an arrow pointing towards a pale, unmappable place
Only reached with closed eyes.
Among the rocks below the cliffs,
Between two boulders
Sharp with mussels, clinging,
The corpse of a brown pelican withers.
The keel bone juts through
The slumped flesh,
The hollow skull bows humbly
To the cold feet of the sea.
I kneel, reach out,
And the bill turns to powder in my hand.
I, too, want to die enormous
In a tide pool.
I look up and see an empty space
In the crooked V formation
Of eleven pelicans heading North.
Did she forget the slanted cypress on the bluff?
Where we climbed, lay on branches,
Our small hands almost touching, our skin
Warmed by the eyes behind the curtain
We call sky,
The runs in the old blue fabric
Like so many roads
The birds traverse,
Their flight weaving thin,
Black stitches in the folds,
Like the sutures the doctor sewed
Into her wrists.
How lonely, those branches
Must be, and the crows
Dusk, I stay beside the body of the pelican.
When my sister plunged,
And the winds did nothing,
Did she know the song bones sing
Just before they snap?
I hum that slow song.
My heart a thousand wilted feathers.
I pluck one, press the tip into the sand;
I draw her a magnificent winged thing.
The zephyr of my breath
Eddies through the plumes.