A recent Tompost on TheTomPostPile (a must for anyone who wants to see and hear more about Martha’s Vineyard), “We Meet Death on the Beach,” reminded me of a poem I wrote in October 1985, just a few months after I moved here. Here it is.
Young Sea Gull
Two dogs joined me on the walk back,
one stocky, black, mostly Lab,
the other smaller, part Shepherd,
with mutton-chop whiskers.
The Lab found me first, barked his companion off
to a respectful distance.
Whiskers tore after sanderlings,
the flock flittered over the waves,
lit down again, safe, up the beach.
He went after a lone sea gull floating
on a broken wave. I waited for gull rise,
Whiskers had the gull’s wing between his teeth.
NO! I screamed. The dog backed off.
The sea gull, flea-bit brown, rested on the sand,
looked around, no expression in those eyes.
Now’s your chance, I pleaded. A sweep of wave
floated the gull off the sand
into the maw of the next wave. I cursed,
watched the dogs, hoped the tide would do
what wings could not.
The wings beat, the bird lifted up,
the move caught the dog’s eye, he lunged —
NO! I shrieked, and one more time he came away.
I could do nothing, nothing but lead the dogs
away, look back every few steps.
Whiskers made a beeline back, I ran after,
a few steps, stopped. Nothing I could do.
I walked. The Lab trotted alongside.
Whiskers joined us, nothing on him telling
of a kill. They found their people up the beach,
left me following my shadow, long hair bouncing
to the rhythm of my broad-hipped walk,
one hand open, one hand wrapped around
a bit of sea-shaped shell. Hauling lines
a trawler moved west. Sunbathers, a fisherman,
two bird-watchers packed to go home.
The wind had come around southwest,
easy sailing home for me. I wondered
what to have for supper, would tomorrow be
a good day to go to town,
and when, if ever, the South Beach gulls
might notice one