Guest Poet C.Lawry Brown

The Gull   

I went for a walk
along the rocky beach behind my house,
The sultry afternoon baked the shore.
The incense of the flats
rose like pungent fingers
grabbing my nose.
Overhead the gulls floated free
like apple blossoms in spring.
Then I heard it.
At first it was a tapping,
steady, patient, methodical.
It would suddenly become frantic
and gradually die away.
Then I saw him.
In a sepulcher of the embankment.
The gull,
Caught in the crevice of a rock.
Someone's discarded trash, 
a large can, 
around his foot.
Painfully I watched 
his frantic crest and exhausted ebb
as he challenged captivity.
Then he saw me.
He didn't move, our eyes met.
The depthless, black circles 
looked into my heart
and for a moment, I understood.
For his there was no way out. 
His yellow beak, tinged with blood
from where he tried 
to peck off his own foot.
We stared as I moved closer.
My heart pounded.
His chest, albatross white, heaved
as if in concert with mine.
Suddenly his wings, like giant sails
spread as he tried to fly.
He lunged at my reaching hand
as if to warn me away.
Gravely lodged, he crashed forward.
Again, I stepped to help.
His quest became more frantic.
He stabbed another warning at my hand,
this time drawing blood.
With each advancing stem
his frenzy increased.
He pecked at the can
with an SOS like rhythm.
Once again our eyes met.
I moved toward him
with my blood covered hand.
His eyes pierced my heart,
My eyes filled with tears,
I knew I couldn't help,
all I could do was watch.
The drumming continued,
growing slower and slower.
As the pall draped sun
sank behind the hill.
I watched as the tapping stopped,
his weakened, lifeless body
slid off the rock.
A metallic clang broke the silence,
the can had fallen off his leg.

March, 1999

C.Lawry Brown's Questions:

My first draft of this poem showed the person as a watcher, saddened by the fate of this bird but unable to help. I have tried to involve the person more and put in some of their disgust at the trash that trapped this grand bird.

Does the eyes of the two meeting and the concert of the hearts bring deeper meaning to this poem? Both these concepts are additions to this poem. The final addition was making the last lines more dramatic.

Does the addition of the metallic clang breaking the silence and the can falling off work?

I did not have this in the first draft. I ended with the pall draped sun going behind the hill and then just silence. Which works better, the first or second ending?

Thank you for commenting.

The Net

The woman sat on the porch 
with a large needle,
A huge net lay at her feet.
The ball of twine whirled
as she pulled and mended the holes.
The new, coarse, dark string
looked out of place
in the faded field of twine at her feet.
She carefully wove each knot
with a surgeons precision,
Securing the cork floats at
exact intervals.
All the while she thought
of that dress at the mercantile,
The blue one with the little bows
on the sleeves.
She looked at the cove
The dories heavy with net,
She worked faster.

March, 1999

C.Lawry Brown's Questions:

I try to show the importance of what she is doing.  Do the lines about the blue dress in the mercantile show why she is working hard or are they out of place? 

Do I successfully show that this family is barely making it and that it is important that she mend the nets when I talk about the new coarse string looking out of place? 

Does the last line work?

Old Friend

The afternoon sun was scorching,
So I sat down with an old friend
where I had so many times before.
The cool, green grass
wove around the massive roots
exposed by elements of time.
I leaned back and touched the bark,
Rough and grooved with age.
My fingers traced the faded initials,
mine and my best friend Pam.
To the left were remnants of holes
made for spouts and
countless buckets of maple syrup.
To the left about a foot,
The dent where I backed up
when Dad was teaching me to drive.
I ran my hand in the dent and 
I could hear Dad hollering,
"First gear, not reverse."
At the base were two small markers,
The faded names Pete and Snuffy.
Overhead spread the massive limbs
Remnants of rope remained
from the many old swings it carried.
Its expansive top a canopy,
its rustling music the 
music that I often went to sleep by.
My old friend,
Progress maps out your destiny.
A new, wider road falls on that map
and you are a road block.
I nestled in the hollow of the roots,
My hand caressing the mighty bark,
The wind talking in the leaves.
With a tear
I bid my old friend good-bye.

March, 1999

C.Lawry Brown's Questions:

Do I show the importance of this tree through all the senses? 

All the little childhood momentos are too much? 

I want to show how progress isn't always a good thing and that sometimes things shouldn't have to be sacrificed. 

Do the last two lines work?  Or is the tear to corny?

Thank you for your comments.


The Albany Poetry Workshop