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Kingfisher: poems

 “. . . were beasts to draw semblances of the gods, 
          horses would them like to horses sketch, to oxen, oxen. . .”
                                — Clement of Alexandria, Stromata
  “‘Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.’ But the sparrow still falls.“
                                — Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
 “With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs. . . . It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. . . . Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth . . .”
                                   — H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds
The kingfisher god has His stoneblack eye out 
for the shadowy shape in the slough.
No fingerling surfaces but that He sees.
The fire that powers His wings
fans a breeze from bank to bank, 
ripples bands of blue on a blue ground, 
a throat of white cloud.

In His likeness his flock — two of them 
here — hover strenuously, then dive 
like a thrown stone. The window of water 
pierced, shatters. They rise, fry in beak
and launch in air with only the sound
of falling droplets, toward a perch
safe in the willows, perhaps a mate. 
This is their life, oblivious 
to the lumbering herons’ flight, 
the brookside café, roar 
of the heavy machinery of roadwork. 

I lie of course. 
Not believing in deific kingfishers. 
And they, to be honest, 
have no need of one, 
the trout and ripple where they are,
nest built by instinct, days bright
or dark revealing dinner or not
in the weedy creek.

But if need they had, 
dreaming one of their own 
who brings the Nooksack Dace,
who allows the accommodating banks 
adjoin the hunting ground, who creates
the small white eggs that fill the earthen nest . . .
would He not be blue and quick, sharp-eyed
and fierce, at home in sky 
and water and tree and bank 
like them?

v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^

That old cartoon of goldfish in a bowl, 
“OK, if there’s no God, 
who changes the water?” Their god 
must be no fish, but what? Well, 
just a joke. But who
changes our water?
Beyond the great bowl of sky,
out of our element, perhaps
a pedestrian Something
rotates the galaxies.
We are not in its image
nor it in ours. It does not see 
sparrows fall or minnows twitch
or choose between who feeds
or dies in nests felled by storm 
or flood. Implacable, impartial,
spinning away worlds
like pebbles down an endless street.

v ^ v ^v ^v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^

Why should we be in His image
(let alone why not Hers?), why
would He not be a Belted Kingfisher, Great 
Blue Heron, Peamouth Minnow, Bunchberry, 
Cranefly, Planarian? If we allow
that God is all, how do we know
it’s we who are the chosen imago?
Perhaps were merely incidental
to the kingfisher poised above the fish, 
or the fish unwitting of the bolt of blue 
about to stab and pluck him 
from this life into another realm altogether.

Why would such a god, of whatever phylum, bother — 
the ridiculous intricacies of celestial motion,
the food chain, the mere variety of finches!
The convolutions by which we 
(“we”! a whole other can of worms) 
perceive the perturbations of subatomic bits
which we call white, or roar, or kingfisher?

If we were made in His image, would we 
really continue our endless tedious effort
to simplify and clarify and, by the way,
murder each other? No. 
We would create things that were
as complicated as possible, 
with uncountable parts and unimaginable
connections and let the results 
sort themselves out without interference 
like grains of sand on the ocean floor 
or photons in a ray of light or the blurred
wingbeats of a Belted Kingfisher’s hovering flight.

For more work from this collection, please visit
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