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in plain air 181
the pelican-watcher (1)
Dusk under fog; and under fog a mist
Grays out the view three hundred yards off shore;
Ocean, though wind's no harder than before,
Smashes and roars where it had slapped and hissed
All week long; beach may be at its ugliest
Heaped up with kelp torn from the ocean fl oor,
Huge clots and strings of it, yellowy brown, and more
Comes heaving and sprawling in on every crest.
Few birds. It's townsfolk out for the spectacle
And hundreds of surfers: black torsos holding still
As tree stumps in the troughs, awaiting the right one.
No pelicans. I miss them, on my run.
Then, fi ve of them! infi xing their refl ection
In the wave's wall they fl y along to perfection.
the pelican-watcher (2)
There must have been fi ve hundred here last week
Not grazing the waves like these but swirling high
Their silhouettes jagged against a sky
Bright silver in the west over a sleek
And blazing evening sea; slow, homely, meek
Amongst the agile lovely terns and sly
Gull gangs they fl apped deliberately by.
Ungainly dives get them the fi sh they seek.
They look like so much scrap-iron hurled in the air,
But they belong. Archaic and venerable
Their ugliness no less than their steady skill
(And now alas who's jogging toward me there?
A handsome colleague whose talk is a display
Of intellectual cowardice and decay...).