Measureless Float

for the free citizens of Ukraine

I slowed the boat.
Light breeze guiding astern,
the lake asked us to drift
through a cold mist toward
what was no longer a floating pine bough,
large, dark with needles when we left the dock,
sunken now to rest low and flat on the surface.

The dark bough had turned
into a black shoal of mud hens,
coots, drifting ahead of us
toward some dim nowhere.
Nowhere urged them to wait out
the few October days left them
before they would have to fly south,
or, iced in, fail ever to fly.

One coot popped into the air from an end of the shoal.
It flapped and dropped quickly.
Another bird popped up from the other end.
Then an eagle glided out of the mist above us all.

It flew over the shoal of little birds paddling in calm,
or calm panicked to a taut gun-spring.
The eagle veered and dove.
The eagle approached an end of the shoal
and another black snack flapped
up from the other end.

The eagle aborted the dive, rose again,
and aimed toward the animate end,
but, from the end the eagle had first targeted,
another coot popped up and dropped.

None of them ever flapped high enough
that even the eagle might call it flying.
No bird offered a ballistic arc
for the eagle’s ballistic response.
No bird presented itself as solid and true,
as Bird.

Again the eagle hesitated,
a war-lord stumped by shopkeepers,
confused into petty violence.
The eagle collected its poise,
rose, adjusted for its target and trajectory,
and dove once more.
Another pop and flap.
Another aborted dive.
This continued.
A dive, a pop, from end to middle,
from middle to end, one or another.

We were as bewildered as the eagle
at the sight of small birds outmaneuvering
the taloned grace of petty Omnipotence.

Before I re-started the motor,
one of us may have said, thought,
that the better part of valor is no more than,
no less than the unthought insurrection,
almost imperceptible,
of nature’s food-stuff—ourselves—
making way in maybe the last
threatened world,
aggressive non-violence, shared life-wide
in patiently evolved resolution—Ahimsa.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.