The Pelican

1 May 2015

Like the Memphis Queen she steams
downriver at pleasureboat speed,
the rolled umbrella of her beak
peony pink, wobbleboard gullet
dangling in fleshy bagpipe,
a flush of fresh shrimp
wooshed out of her rubber pullet.
She stalks what she sees,
takes more than she needs,
the vast bayou of her appetite
swamping catfish shuffling
in mud, minnow churn, and the small
sweet cries of sausage dogs
on the shore—there is always more,
third helpings, the plate piled high
roadside diner style as she rides
stately as a motorcade,
dips her head in salute
along the antebellum scrollwork
of the shore, fossicks and prospects
with the rude gush of her influx
and pump, sucking shellfish
into gumbo, all swallow, all hallowed,
then with a swig of ipecac
upchucks the chum to her sons.
They struggle to keep up
as she steers south, singing hymnals
and cursing Union strongholds,
coasting to her holiday home,
a lavender estuary on Key West
where she wallows each year for a stretch.
Chiefly she goes to taunt the caimans,
sliding between them like a sly catamaran,
lobbying for a crackpot annex of Texas,
suspicious of the spoonbills’ migrations,
always at war, muttering to herself,
still nursing her grievances about
the Louisiana Purchase
and the Pledge of Allegiance …

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