in the absence of stars tonight, gulls

in the absence of stars tonight, gulls

Poem by Scot Siegel
Art by Dorothee Lang

prologue: g-e-l… g-l-e… g-a-l… g-u-l-l?

ma’am you’ll have to bear with me our
circuits are overloaded. ma’am i have no
messages no record of his checking-in
search-n-rescue is stuck in port and
the storm has taken out our main server…
how do you spell that, again?


we are the deckhands with ghost faces
our wives have gone mad on the cape

cormorants set gold hooks into our palms
and heels and tug like rodeo clowns

mergansers cast their silver net down
and let the wind cinch it…

gulls cry in the distance; they are innocent
and hungry


messengers of salt and soot in the storm, gulls

shift moods like white churches
in the rain

they know the deeper pain
in the margins


gulls have no religion no deity
but believe in a higher disorder:

heaven’s bad hand


gulls: crows in sheep’s clothing
sheared by the sea


gulls do not scavenge your christmas

no gull mourns the tinseled fir
in the airy dumpster

or the flocked pine on fire
in the fifty-gallon drum


when we were young
we played in the waves

& thought it good luck
when a gull would shit on us

the world was full of


drifting past the drilling rig
we cheer

gulls shitting on yellow

we listen for the engineers’

which reminds us we are all
human we are all



she wanted to take him home
make him her suitor

snuggle in his wing of down
& dream

he would tell her of the greatest
herring runs in the world

a sea thick with silver sequins
from the gulls’ thrashing them apart

but her father, a crabber at heart,
would have none of it––

so a landlocked maiden she remained
& grew gills in her sleep

through slits in her neck
on a yellow barbed pillow


a homely model of celibacy
then an airmail bride bearing gifts

then a wrecking crew
soon multiples of fifty descend

a low cloud over your city
plucks municipal pigeons & kids’

meals from the local landfill
leftovers strewn on medians

at slack-tide a stale sea-smell
the air conditioner whinnying

the freeway at a standstill
gulls nowhere in sight


90 degrees in the valley
crows on the tarmac

barking at gulls –
the gulls laugh, tie loops

set treble hooks
in the trees


some gulls are related
to bees

the spot of blood on
hooked beaks

marks the rape


eclipsed sunsets are for lovers
of tragedy

gulls know the routine
& practice it

in their sleep


the speckled gull cocks
his head, watches the deckhand
suture himself

the white gull whispers
in his wife’s ear; she dreams
crushed petals, a girl

dancing the shore-break––
gulls run interference
for the sharks

smell her
longing for father
from the other side of

the reef

refers from the word nets in Scott Owens’ poem 13 Ways of Angels


  1. I don’t know why, but “gulls: crows in sheep’s clothing/sheared by the sea” just edges out “deckhands with ghost faces” as the image that stays with me through the whole poem. Strangely beautiful.

  2. i’d have to go with you on the image of clothing being sheared by the sea as well. That is the type of line that will get me to publish!

  3. I love:
    shift moods like white churches
    in the rain

  4. Rose isn’t this such a visually visceral poem? I love being transported from image to image…

  5. And so brutal and lonely… And having a bit of a joke at times – the speckled gull cocks/ is almost too much, which is what I like about it I think! Or is that just me??

    I just realized hardhats are in mine too. Only here we have gulls shitting on them….

  6. Rose – I also loved the mix of the dark and the comic. Amazing how little connections start to show up from poem to poem and poet to poet 🙂

  7. Just wanted to say *thanks* for reading and discussing “gulls”. I like the recent addition of Dorthee Lang’s artwork. I had not thought about the perspective of sharks looking at gulls through the waves and thinking of stars. The artwork enhances the poem.

  8. Glad you enjoyed the artwork Scot. I never want to be heavy handed when placing art with writing but I really liked the way the two pieces juxtapose each other.

  9. thanks for including the shark photo – i really like the juxtaposition, too, and the way the sharks almost linger underneath the surface of the poem, until they show in 13.
    seeing the picture and the poem now on a page, it made me think how both sharks and gulls are able to glide through 3 dimensions, each in their own way.
    loved this:
    “gulls: crows in sheep’s clothing
    sheared by the sea”

    i just put a blog note up with a link and some lines:

  10. I love all the pairings of poems/prose and pictures that I have put up but this really has to be one of my favorite pairings. It really adds an extra level to the poem and the art!

  11. I love this image (and pairing) too! So alien – with those hands going up and oddly shaped heads….

  1. Pingback: Referential Magazine | In the Margins (poem) by Robin Turner - Referential Magazine

  2. Pingback: Referential Magazine | In the Margins (poem) - Referential Magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s