Sunday, January 23, 2005

Interrupted Picnic

by Zinta Aistars

We wade waist-deep into the swirl of maddened water,
women and children, children first,
pinked cheeks flushed with their eagerness,
arms drawing arcs around their slight and tiny bodies,
paddling through the fluid resistance,
pushing, contracting, expelling their
miniature forms into this watery sluice
or gateway to another mysterious dream.
The women wade more slowly, bare toes
clinching slippery stones, algae-slimed,
testing the waters, sacredness
of first and last breath branded indelible
into the reflex of our maternal souls.
We move in a jagged circle
tightening around the soggy form,
bird tethered to stream, wing spreading splayed
and oddly-angled across the shimmering surface,
blurring black bead of an eye staring,
staring unblinking at the clumsy approach
of promise, either of possible death
or possible life. Children bobbing
like golden apples in this raucous game,
shirts blooming open like a field of burst flowers
around their pudgy waists,
tracing and retracing the arcs of their own untried wings
and excited by this heady chance
to play God. Kingfisher,
damp and defeated, neither king nor fish,
but a trembling blue miracle dethroned from a kingdom
of sky, the mothers scoop him from the baptismal soup,
shattering crystal necklaces over our children's faces
suddenly crowded around,
mouths open and waiting.
He breathes. Tiny heart hammering
in fear and hope of either
swimming skies with giddy speed
or the sheer luck of a quick and painless death.
Collapsed sodden and formless
against a human breast,
he surrenders in simple trust
to either.

(Published in coilMagazine! Winter 2001 issue)

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