I saw this scene unfold while working on the Yankee Clipper, part of the Windjammer fleet, in the Caribbean in 1972. When I saw Don Ray’s painting, I had to get a print and was inspired to capture the battle in poetic form. The real life drama was caught on film:
(In response to Don Ray’s painting of a flying fish being pursued by both a Magnificent Frigate and a dolphin fish.)
Fins folded, the flying fish lifts,
bursts from beneath the sea’s surface
to glide at forty-five miles an hour
across the crests and rifts.
Coryphaena hippurus, chartreuse purple flashes,
agitated dark dorsal flags flying,
dart underneath in patterned pursuit
anticipating winged dashes.
Overhead, a frigate’s black wings reflect cobalt blue;
narrowed in diving descent,
his deeply forked tail alters flight
and allows hooked bill to pursue.
Adapted after a million years of predation
silver herring aircraft take off
with the lower lobe of the caudal fin whirring
in instinctive defensive navigation.
Feathered pirate, Fregata Magnificens,
descends, snaps his hinged, hooked trap,
plucks the airborne sard,
claims the prize, and ascends.
Undeterred, dorado drive pinnate prey
through waves into gusts to glide
over furrows and undulating ridges
to bank off swells in an aerial ballet.
A dance of the eons is enacted on the oceanic tide
by a triad of species entwined;
evolved adaptations of flight and fight
on a sun dappled sea collide.