by Celia Bland
If Jesus was an osprey — catfish whiskery in his beak — he would
be the osprey that dropped its prey on the roof of our car
as we were driving Alligator Alley in western Florida.
We kissed after we nearly wrecked after the
fish slammed onto the metal roof
and slid down the windshield
in a trail of scales and watery blood.
You tasted of sand and sunscreen.
If Jesus were a crane he would have swooped back to rescue that fish for
his dinner. But Jesus was an osprey and his beak was chalice, and the fish
the wine spilled.
Is that a trope? you asked, muscle at the corner of your eye quivering.
for the end of the world?
We were driving again, having laid rubber on the interstate
when we slammed the brakes after the fish fell from the sky.
The hair on my arms had lifted like a cur. No, for conception, I said, and
it was true. That night when the baby was conceived — the one who
died in the sea-water of womb, salt medium that develops a brain.
Is it memory that finishes a baby?
Was this one on the boil too long? Premature
they called her. Dropped,
commented my grandmother.
Like the snow hitting the roof of our car as we returned
from the hospital, its wings beat its passage into sky, articulating
distance from mortals, and the fish slick and thick and tapered at one end
into a fin. Finis.
Each wingbeat the sound of the tail on the roof as the catfish, stunned, beat a sine
curve to the hood, to the rood.
Was it, in fact, a delivery —
Jesus as pelican dropping this message: his word made
flesh (or fish). The word permeability, meaning your condom,
and the membrane the sonogram and the parchment screen that
revealed her tiny black
heart size of a fish brain,
barely hardly beating.
The fish dive-bombed our rented Chevy green
as a shallow tide pool, as my eyes,
as the hospital walls and the swamp grass on both sides
of the highway where alligators
sines curving in ditches.
Celia Bland’s third collection of poetry, Cherokee Road Kill, was published in 2018. The title poem received the Raynes Prize. Selected prints of Madonna Comix, a image and poetry collaboration created with artist Dianne Kornberg, were exhibited at New York City’s Lesley Heller Gallery and published by William James Books with an introduction by Luc Sante.