Ode to the Pelican
Brown or white, you are the goofiest of birds.
Bird of crash dives and the infinite wattle,
creature most likely to be caricatured
in blown glass, to be carved and clown-painted
in Oaxaca. Albatross of the Gulf, usherer in
of fishing boats, even the psalmist took note:
I am like a pelican of the wilderness. Oh, my soul,
if I could shape shift, it would be you, pelican,
and I’d yawp from your roomiest of throats.
Pelican, Pelegrin: on lazy tongues our names alike.
Wing man of my father as he marathoned across
Lake Pontchartrain with blood in his shoes.
Portrayed prolifically in water colors, but rarely
the topic of a tribal tattoo. Selfless Pelican,
in stained glass second only to the dove,
feeding your trinity of flightless young with shreds
of flesh and sips of your own blood. On the state flag
they’ve sanitized your cannibal love, Louisiana bird.
What can we do for you, pelican? Oil spoiled,
washing up on toxic beaches. Marbled eggs
unforming while pious, blackened pelicans sit.
I have been faithless, pelican. All my life I thought
you were falling–reckless, sprawled like Icarus–
until you surfaced with a fish. Blue-gloved hands
hold you kindly in a tub, flush saline in your eyes,
give your feathers a toothbrush scrub. You fight
by giving up, unwilling or unable to be saved by us.
This ‘oil spoil’ has me scared to death. Hurricane season begins today and will last six long months. This picture of me was taken almost exactly one year ago in Pensacola, Florida, also part of the Gulf Coast.