FORGETFUL GOD by Charles Harper Webb
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”
Night’s dark cadenza fades. To wild
applause of birds, the moon’s cornet-
bell ducks behind the blue
curtain of dawn. Now, from cracks
and pools that waves have gouged
into pahoehoe, hermit crabs drag
scavenged shells after the retreating tide.
Gray-barred doves ocarina soft alarms.
From green palm trees, yellow finches
screech, “Retreat!” Yet, in a round breach
in the black rock, one small orange fish
delays too long. Trapped
in a pool that slinks away as daylight’s
hard, hot hand slams down, it’s just
a fish: no plans or projects
left undone; no friends or family
who will mourn. Still, it fears to feel
its circuits short out, its liquid
rhythms quit. Like the prayers of a rocked
boxer, trainer shouting words
that he can’t understand, the fish
zips back and forth across the ring—
enormous once; now closing in.
Flashing side to side, flipping
through the air, the fish finds only
that all escape-routes end. No life-line
opens to the sea six feet away,
its gray chop bluing in the sun,
its surface surging up and down,
forward and back.