Seabirds at Shelton


Fog-muted buoy bells mutter across
the high-tided estuary as the treaty-grid
sea releases oystering lapstrakes
and crabbers, salmon trawlers,
gill-netters and halibut’rs—they
return spewing offal—for seabirds
and dogfish a chum-manna of cleansing,
eviscerating, shelling: gannets, gulls,
petrels and fulmars shriek, gamboling
for guts. The ocean’s leaden rhythm bullies

the vessels with scud-foam hands: home’s
Skeleton Bay’s dilapidated port and taverns,
a palisade of docks, creosoted timbers
crystalline with rain. The corniche road
from town is dotted with refrigerated trucks
growling down the bluffs, low gears popping;
the lion’s share of the haul is theirs. Rollers
lift the ships, canting lighted riggings that blink
as diesel generators cough: a dozen storm-blown
Christmas trees; good to be back in town knowing
this gale will bluster out into beryl twilight.

Pipers skitter from the cedar-branch and kelp-
strewn shingle to stony sand, a flotilla
of feeders one-for-all and all-for-one,
so like coveys of quail in wheat fields. Mud
cliffs coagulate behind the diminished rain,
the marsh glitters; one fancy home clings there,
uninhabitable from the last slide, its decks
bristling, from the bight, an abatis of lumber.
Loons cry from the estuary, floated in from
Little Skookum still hungry, horny, seeking
a fight: they feast on salmon fingerlings,
these funny toad-birds, these consummate


Sean Brendan-Brown