The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world — so long as you don’t mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn’t born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water–hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.
Until hard times,
when from fire and drought
the patriarchs crashed.
The land was taken for taxes,
the young people cut down
and sold to the mills.
Their manhood and womanhood
was crushed, bleached
with bitter acids,
their fibers dispersed
among ten million offspring.
You see them at any picnic,
at ballgames, at home,
and at state occasions.
They are thin and pliable,
porous and identical.
They are made to be thrown away.