The insects that flew in
to visit our Christmas candles last night
scramble at first light to find their way out
across the Strait of Cerralvo
back to the sun.
No more foolish than my pursuits…
I wolf down a mango and dried fish
and follow them to the sea,
into awareness of the inscrutable pelican.
On my knees in the bright morning
sand sizzling with froth of expended waves
I comb the beach intent on shells,
the pelican is evasive
distant in his work.
We spend a brimming day together…
Aloft on favorable air above Bahia Ventana
he patrols for flashing fish,
I search on all fours for beauty.
A hundred times he plunges
with vital purpose into jeweled waters
and as many times I pluck treasures
from extended fingers
of the sea.
Again, again Bahia’s waters withdraw generously…
I rise from the surf bearing blinding agates
and shells of preposterous beauty.
How much plunder from this playa is enough?
The pelican knows in precise terms,
a regal, unfurling of wings…reveals nothing
but flight to granite boulders beyond reach
of the highest tides
and the meddlesome.
And I ascend only to my tingling feet…
I plunge into the shore break to wash away
sweat, and scour coarse pebbles
pressed deep into my palms and knees.
Before my skin rebounds
it bears a print, an exact impression
of my last true points of contact
with this place
with the pelican’s playa.
And I start hungrily for El Sargento…
Home clings crazily to bare stones
above the flotsam of great storms,
of legends that spawn the names of children.
My footprints track below the pelican’s perch
solemn bill tucked against fine feathers
never stirs at my passage,
why should he
why would he?
Salute a clown moving aimlessly on his beach…
Should a man register with any more
significance in endless days
than a drifting tangle of sea grass?
But this man regards the pelican with earnest eyes
Bahia’s great grey resident remains unruffled
no trace of fatigue after a productive day.
no discernible sign
of being well fed.
No different than before the fish rose like an offering…
The pelican is so close…still I don’t see
evidence of the churning digestion
that must be alive within him.
The pelican is so close…I see the down
on his stoic head rustle in dying afternoon winds
but even in such proximity
I can only imagine
a common contentment.
For a day’s shared enterprise along the playa…
The insects will return
with sun fading on a Baja daydream.
Christmas candles will not illuminate
the shadowed straits between our being,
but the pelican’s gut is full of fish
and my pockets overflow
with gorgeous sea shells…and that is enough.
Don Anslow, 12/25/13