Sarah Giragosian

Ornithology 103

We came to study the seagulls.
            When our field trip to the sea 
                        didn’t pan out (budget cuts), we caravanned 

to the dump, fording through oceans 
            of crud to see the gulls in their habitat.
                        Necklaced with binoculars, we monitored 

their behavior, scribbled field notes. 
            It’s true: they’ve learned to slam and shatter 
                        tinned fish like clams against the rocks

and comb through swells of metals, 
            denuded Christmas trees, tables protruding 
                        like pectoral fins, and even drowning mannequins 

for stray crumbs, dabs of meat,
            and—best of all—deshelled crabmeat. 
                        When our professor, spying a herring gull, 
wandered off, we ditched our binoculars 
            and played king of the trash heap,
                        rapiering freshmen with umbrellas. Too late 

we turned when the gulls 
            unburied the creature, when it coughed up 
                        bright ribbons of plastics globbed 

with blood; when it shimmied on a belly 
            bloated by improbable hungers towards us; 
                        when it dressed itself with fruit peels,

a hooked fish, a garnish of glass, 
            and even its own intestines, a map 
                        looping back to us. Too late 

I turned when it curled
            eel-slick against me
                        as if I were its father.

“Ornithology 103” first appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Spring /Summer 2020.