Riding the wind, in planetary sweep,
The gull wheels on the radius of a wing.
Ocean and air, concourse of height and deep
Acclaim the exultant orbit of their King.
Precise he lands, defter than any dancer,
Red legs, red eye, white body whiter than foam,
No loveliest yacht so light to lean and answer,
No soul so white in its celestial home.
Oh Attic joy! Oh grace made visible,
Beauty and power embodied into bird!
Malice or truth – which is it pricks your spell
With sarcasm of the loathsome and absurd?
Those lacquered feathers, sleek to wind and wave
Or downy to the softly fingering breeze
Are an infested jungle, a living grave,
The haunt of lice, mites, parasites, and fleas.
Filth feeds that savage beauty, when head, beak, eyes
Plunge in the putrid whale, or, harsh as sin,
Are stretched agape, with cannibalistic cries,
To tear the wounded body of his kin.
Beauty born of death, to death returning,
You are our Middle Earth, nor Heaven nor Hell,
You are ourselves, our turning globe still turning,
The fractured light in which we have to dwell.
Here truth is ever tangent. Therefore, gull,
Gorged with the stinking offal that you eat
Rise in the light, infested, beautiful,
In fragmentary loveliness complete.