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A Kingfisher in August

Swim down towards the bridge for half an hour.
Stillness and heat are in this green river.
Your mind is free. Now flip on to your back
To see the alders, leaning from the bank,
Descending to you. Close your eyes. The leaves
Print shadows on the light behind the lids.
The river bends, the children’s voices
Playing on the sandbank now are hushed.
There is only you, and a breeze in the alders
To tell you something you already know
About an older and a calmer world
Than that you move in most months of the year.
Pay the breeze attention while you drift and float.
The office babble of July regains
Full volume in September. Listen and
You won’t hear either. You are out of reach.

Summer has prevailed at last, and in this state
Of solo contemplation, suddenly
You have an escort in a blur of wings:
Midnight in daylight. Back and forth he skims,
Adornment, outrider; and the bird men used
To hunt, stop up and murder in his hole
Is now your guarantee of passage
On the river, your free right to drift and float.

And when you reach the bridge, he’s with you still,
Your own wild mascot, as you stand and shake
The water from your skin, and feel the sun
Burn your good flesh. Here they won’t come looking
For you or for him. Now they can’t touch us.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author