Tuesday, January 8, 2008


"Gull" is a most satisfactory word. It can be a noun, of course, referring (as the OED online told me) to any web-footed, long-winged bird of the Laridae and Larinae families. But it can also be a noun that refers to a naive person, one who can be "gulled": fooled or conned. One may "gull" someone, then; hence the term gullible, I infer. But to gull can also mean to drink--to gulp, and to hollow out.

But back to those Laridae and Larinae families: Gulls of various kinds seem ubiquitous near all seashores and at many land-fills and lakes. I've seen them near fast-food restaurants, too; for some reason, the sight of a gull there is terribly amusing.

The other day, we went to lunch at one of the places on Commencement Bay in T-Town, and on the railing outside sat the largest gull, by far, any of us had ever seen. I mean, the body looked like that of a large goose or an immense chicken. It almost crossed the line into turkey territory. The massive gull, mostly white, sat there for a long time, looking through the window at us diners. Sometimes the look on a gull's face is as amusing as that on a cat's face. Your rational mind tells you that the bird- or cat-brain is small, that there can't be that much going on up in the attic, but your intuition whispers to you that the creature is really thinking things over.

That piercing cry of gulls is quite appealing (to me), and the few times I've been ocean-fishing, chiefly for salmon (many moons ago), I enjoyed watching the gulls follow the boat. I don't have any desire to kill and/or to eat a gull (my, that was an abrupt shift of topics), but I wouldn't mind hearing from a reliable source who has tasted cooked gull-meat. There seems to be this built-in taboo against eating gulls and ravens, and I'm not interested in disrupting the taboo. I'm just curious about whether anyone at any time has actually tried, literally, to eat crow--or gull. At the moment, I'm too lazy to do the research, but I'll rouse myself soon.

It's frightening to think how many poems may have been written about gulls. The seashore is, after all, where poets and gulls converge. Sandpipers, too: you have to figure there are several million poems about sandpipers.

The following poem refers obliquely to gulls--and, in the title, directly to gulls. But it's not a gull-poem, honest. I'm not trying to gull you.

Her Gull Sadness

Today’s sadness surged out of nothing
specific, rose and rolled against her.
Large not fierce, it held
her in place, took away a will to go,
to try, to hope. There’s always everything
to be sad about, this sadness seemed to assert.
She thought about canceling the rest
of life’s appointments. She wanted
to lie down in dirt like a weary hound,
sleep, not dream—please, no dreams.
The sadness subsequently withdrew,
as some sadnesses do. It left like a slack
tide, nothing personal. All the shells
it left behind were broken, and even if whole,
they wouldn’t have been pretty anyway.
Here she stays, feeling slow and vaguely
ridiculous, like gulls, the disappointed gulls.

Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom
Post a Comment