Dance of the Seagulls

~for PMK~

All the years I lived by the sea

I’d not seen this.

Gulls of course,

sometimes by the hundreds,

drawn by a crust flung from our gate.

Today a different sea, a different bay,

and you and I having a slow lunch,

not by trendy intent

but at the behest of frail attention,

drifting from plate and table

to jubilant day,

gazing beyond the glass

to the blue, by the green,

with the Norfolk pines watching over.

Children and lovers, dogs and bikes,

svelte joggers and seniors out for an ice cream,

share the radiance.

What do I do next, you say,

you need to tell me what to do next.

I muster calm orders, one by one:

drink, eat, use the knife,

spread some butter.

All of my life,

my mind has been able

to grasp things with ease,

and now they slip

from me like strangers.

Helpless, I am with you,

for whom now

nothing seems what it is,

face value a currency devalued.

We sit in what

is today’s easeful

Alzheimic miasma.

Tomorrow your brain

could hijack you elsewhere.

A little boy cavorts with the elusive ubiquity of gulls,

chasing and enticing, clapping them to flight.

Suddenly a shift to incredulity,

as he lifts a gull

from her slow-footed progress

and places his hands around her warmth.

I fear a roughness,

I see a rush in him of forensic curiosity,

but the boy is tender,

as creature to creature,

and the bird tame in her dying.

The child holds her a while,

then, sensing she has lost her capacity for air,

he places her softly on the solid green,

she who might once have thought to die

with the familiar swell beneath her.

You and I watch the bird amidst the still jubilant day

as she performs her death dance,

the movement of her wings a last slow longing.

High above, the flock farewells her

in reverent and deliberate circling,

the midday sun casting flying shadows

onto the grass around her.

We walk out to her

and wait the while until she becomes





on the green, by the blue,

subject now to neither harm nor help.

Auden after Bruegel was half right:

sometimes someone does not turn away.

Yeats was half wrong:

hope does sometimes attend, hovering.

You slip your ninety year old hand into mine

and I shelter the bones.

As we shuffle back behind the glass

I wonder who will circle your farewell.

Will the sky cast comforting reminders of flight?

Will a kindness quietly cup your ebbing heart?


*This poem was short listed for the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize 2016.