American Life in Poetry: Column 559

American Life in Poetry: Column 559


by J. Allyn rosser

Several years ago, I co-edited an anthology of poems about birds, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to include this one, a delight. J. Allyn Rosser lives in Ohio. Her most recent book is Mimi’s Trapeze (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). — Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

Pelicans in December


One can’t help admiring
their rickety grace

and old-world feathers
like seasoned boardwalk planks.

They pass in silent pairs,
as if a long time ago

they had wearied of calling out.
The wind tips them, their

ungainly, light-brown weight,
into a prehistoric wobble,

wings’-end fingers stretching
from fingerless gloves,

necks slightly tucked and stiff,
peering forward and down,

like old couples arm in arm
on icy sidewalks, careful,

careful, mildly surprised
by how difficult it has become

to stay dignified and keep moving
even after the yelping gulls have gone;

even after the scattered sand,
and the quietly lodged complaints.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by J. Allyn Rosser, “Pelicans in November,” from Mimi’s Trapeze, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of J. Allyn Rosser and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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