Gulls in Wind

By Betsy Sholl

Bedraggled feathers like bonnets
that would fly off if they weren’t strapped,
kazoo-voiced, a chorus of crying dolphins
or rusty sirens a speck of dust could set off –
these raucous gleaners milling around

pick up and discard, now a Q-tip,
now a shred of lettuce or cellophane,
a cigarette butt one holds a second
as if he really might smoke. One drags
an old condom, one spots a good crumb

and walk-runs, squawks everyone else away.
But it’s just a dried scrap of weed he’ll toss back,
grist for the next fool’s expectation.
Still, a loud alpha catches wind,
scoots over to check it out. Shove off,

he screeches, this is my no-good, barren,
motel-infested spit of sand – on which
he neither toils nor spins, but grubs all day
on webbed feet and clever back-hinged knees,
now skittishly sidestepping a gusty

piece of plastic blown against his legs,
hopping to get it off, now shaking it
once or twice to make sure it’s worthless
before he turns his face to the wind,
letting it smooth his fine fractious feathers.