By Robert Cording

Featured Image: “Australian Pelican” by Elizabeth Gould

Last evening, another sunset party:
drinks, laughs, ironies, hidden desires.
All of us tanned and glowing, we exchanged
jokes and gossip, fresh and stale, self-conscious
that something larger was missing
when we turned to best watches, shoes, cigars.

So much time is lost trying to agitate
the envies of others and monitor one’s own—
the thought that crossed my mind as I watched
six pelicans rise and fall with the water’s flux.
The winds had quieted, and just before the sun plunged
below the sea, the pelicans rose in a wind-hung line

and flew off, silent as a council of gods
in the pinkish sky. Palm trees scratched
their cuneiform shadows on the sand.
I wanted to say something about the pelicans,
who I knew, for no known reason, choose to live
their lives as near total mutes, as if they’d decided

simply to be done with the fecklessness of speaking,
but I kept quiet, the light draining from the sky,
the others going inside. I felt like a child in hiding,
alone on the deck, made fearful and alive
by the darkened Gulf, the stretch of beach
now entirely empty, the palm trees,

the sliver of moon rising directly opposite
of where the sun had set. If I had been called
to come in, I would have kept silent.

Robert Cording‘s book of poems, Without My Asking, was published in 2019 by CavanKerry Press. It recently was an honorable mention for the CT Book Award. A book on poetry, metaphor and the bible–Finding the World’s Fullness–was also published in 2019 by Slant Press.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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