Sabine’s gulls occasionally turn up in Scotland, usually storm-blown or just outright lost. I assumed for years the name was indeed French; it isn’t.


Twenty-three gulls rise and fall like grayscale ducks.
The third one from the left is sleeker, smaller, riding
Higher in the water, black-trimmed gray hood
Low enough to warm her apocryphal ears, a
Stray Sabine’s among the black-headeds and
Kittiwakes that gather in winter and resegregate
For their separate migrations in spring.

Red rover, red rover, somehow she made it over,
Three thousand miles from her flock, blown by
Some storm with a bland name like Charles, or
Edward. Is she confused here where she’s one,
Not one of a hundred hundreds, where they speak
Gull-words in gull-language, but in an alien accent
She can’t parse or interpret?

I persist in thinking of her as her, some
Parisian mademoiselle in a gray cloche hat,
Heels clicking on the impressionist pavement
After the rain. It’s a better tale than the truth:
That this bird who will die here on a strange sea
Was named by the first man to kill one, in honor
Of his brother, the first man to stuff one with
Sawdust and give it glittery glass doll-eyes.


(photo: Wikipedia)


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