I wanted to see a kingfisher
with its throat bound up in whiteness
and its black crest aimed at clouds.
I didn’t know what it looked like,
not really. In poems and stories
it would flicker, a subtle omen.
But a kingfisher appeared
one February Sunday.
First, a high, rattling call
like a constant shake of maracas.
Then the bird itself touched down
on an aged tree, on a pond’s island,
in a circle of melting ice.
From that one place, it called and called
and its call tapped a contradiction
to the cold, a noise that loosened
the ice’s thin sheets.
The kingfisher lifted its tail
up and down, moved close to the water,
moved closer. Its eyes skimmed the pond.
I clumsily focused binoculars:
the white throat, the angular crest!
—perceptible, barely, by color
and form, a lot like a painting
viewed so close up it’s blurred.
Step away. Step away. I didn’t
from my life’s one mention of kingfisher
until some noise
(a rifle, or muffler, or tree fall
in the distance) triggered its flight
and then I watched it lift
—it’s heavy, a bird more burdened
than some, and not all grace—
trailing calls like the beads of a rosary:
a string of clicks in air,
a shadow leaving the ice.

Is it a surprise that one of my all-time favorite book discoveries was Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds?

I stumbled across the beautiful poem above as I was thumbing through it and remembered the Kingfisher painting I did as the last painting of my very first 30 in 30 in April of 2014. I sold that painting, but I didn’t even go back to look at an image of it as a nagging question began to flutter about as I brought my son to school and started to consider what the day’s work would involve:

Have I gotten any better?

To tackle that question, I decided to paint the kingfisher using the same reference photo and on the same size surface. But even as I write this, I have not yet looked at my first Kingfisher painting. I’m about to. I’m about to go back into my old files, pull it up, look at it, post it here. Hoping, praying that the answer to my question is an resounding YES. Here goes.

6x6, oil on canvas

And now for the side by side:

6x6, oil on canvasIMG_2488



This gives me a good bit to think about. There are things I really like about the first one. But I also see a little growth in the second. A little. Maybe not as much as I’d like. Trucking on though. This one is going to take a little processing.