Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Bumbling, ungainly, sag-chinned, laughable:
on land, the pelicans concede their natures.
Hugging the sand, one tries to hide his features,
long neck scrunched into shoulders, abashed bill
well down.

Airborne, they’re different: choreographed.
Baroque danseurs, their slow-beat wing pavane
impends above the waves. Suddenly, one
will fold and plummet, as though pure verve laughed
at want.

All week, against the bottle-green
of low tide after late-spring storms that smashed
our summer piers to gray debris, I’ve seen
my earthbound family, like the birds I watched,
waiting for such a lifting to arrive:

women gleaming, men in dark formation
slow-poised toward this altar, while Bach’s air
lofts us beyond self-consciousness and fear.
Gathered to rise, we brave by calm procession
this joyful hunger, this stunning, headlong dive.