Unnerving, to see a dead brown pelican,
A splatter of dark feathers on asphalt,
Waving in the wind from passing cars,
Wet red pigment drying on the tar
On the bridge from island to mainland.
When we cannot tell the truth about ourselves,
We seek refuge among the birds
Who know more about the possibility of heaven
Because they have lived there.
Lines of pelicans skim over waves, undulating
To rise up before every gust,
Climbing to heights from which they plunge
To capture daily fish and feed their chicks.
That one will not return, its chicks will starve.
And yet, no one speaks of pelican souls
Gone to glory where breezes are always fair
And mullet simply fall into one’s beak.
We do not say this because we have been told
That birds and animals have no souls,
No need for a place of eternal bliss, and that is why
When we cannot speak the truth about ourselves,
We seek refuge among the birds.
- James Hargrove
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: The Poet's Voice: Elegy for a Brown Pelican