The Kingfisher

by Allen Guest


I run this cold December morning along the high dike that
protects my college town from the big lake, which today
mirrors a smooth, gray sky
which, in turn,
mirrors the flat, gray water.
Lake and sky converge on the far shore, two featureless sheets zippered
together by a line of barren trees.

A week ago I shared this path with
students now scattered across the holiday map, but today not a single person in sight;
no cars moving on the road,
no train rumbling on the trestle,
no chimney swifts swirling under the bridge,
no shad dancing across the water.
And suddenly I realize I am the last living person,
the last living thing,
the lonely, un-raptured runner.

Then from behind, and to my left,
a blue-crested kingfisher
glides into view. Silent and primal, flying so close
to the surface his
body and reflection appear
as conjoined twins.
His wingtips break the surface
at the low point of their rhythmic beat;
a quick, cold-water communion repeated with practiced precision.

I run along, transfixed,
watching as he glides ahead of me, his wake two parallel
rows of expanding circles of disturbed water.
They demand my attention,
pull me forward,
a holy-bird
altar call for
an unholy runner.


Allen Guest is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University, where he teach courses in the calculus sequence for science and engineering majors. He is relatively new to poetry and poetry writing. He tries to bring the exactness of mathematics to my poetry, and hopes the attempt brings a certain clarity of image to my work.

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