Delicate

Baby blackbirds chirp near me, out of sight. Their mother lands in a tree one hundred yards away. She transforms into a black period at the end of a sentence on the small island in the lake before me. She fidgets, faces me. I sweep spiders and webs from my blue chairs on our boat dock. Spiders fall through cracks between boards landing on the surface of the lake. They are gone.

Mother blackbird returns. She hops into the roof structure of the dock. She squeezes into the plastic box housing the motor that operates the boat lift. There she feeds her chirping babies. The nest she built them rests against the wheel extending from the motor. I decide not to use the boat lift until summer.

Country music wails from a radio on my neighbor’s dock. His boat motor moans as the propeller slices the water. He and his wife speed away to watch the sun set across the lake. Waves crash, and they are gone.

My wife reads in the chair next to me. Her ankle flexes to the rhythm of the music, and her flip-flop beats the bottom of her heel.

Scratch, tap scratch... I know this sound. A Mallard duck shuffles up behind me on the dock, dragging his webbed feet and toe nails like a lazy sixth grade boy. I do not have bread. He waddles back. Three other ducks take flight from my yard, but this one's injured wing grounds him. My wife flings him a scrap of bread.

Spiders to my chairs. Blackbirds to this nest. This nest to the motor’s wheel. Me to my wife. Us to our neighbors. All of us to this lake. A house of exchange. A delicate economy of balance and destruction. We rest on electric motor wheels. Someone’s finger is on this switch.

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Jeremy Allen Florida 2012