A Fisheries Scientist Encounters Seabird
Eye Feathers as Exact as Mascara
1 Rookery Conjectures
The Laysan albatross is kind of hot.
Even the boy birds are sexy,
which, I guess, isn’t saying a lot
since, from latitude sixty
all the way down to at least twenty-ought,
the boys and the girls are vexingly
hard to tell, one from the other.
Only biologists bother.
Alright. Albatrosses also bother.
When they reach the isle of Laysan
and cluck mating clucks, one to another,
dancing ancient rituals, emblazoned
under the tropical sun, taut-feathered
with lust, waltzing to get wings on
the fairer sex, whichever that is,
they care who’s a her, who’s a his.
A come-fuck-me black, hot enough to drive
entire priesthoods to schism,
darkens the eyes of each sex. Yet they thrive
without sexual dimorphism.
Husbands deliver to albatross wives
dollops of albatross jism,
targeting exactly, rarely wrong.
And I have been at sea for far too long.
2 Foraging Conjectures
Here, far to the north of Laysan, the cold
flows in currents and fresh gales beat.
Albatrosses reel to my boat, made bold
by tattered cod and broken meat.
Alighting close-by while whitecaps unfold,
one treads the sea with paddle-feet,
breast deep in blood, comely as a girl
who’d wanted, once, to give me a whirl.
Hip deep in finrays and arches of gills,
I peer over busted flounders.
Ink-pure eye shadow, perfectly quilled,
leaves my bird so hotly gendered
that northerlies kiss the tip of her bill.
Gusted briskly, she lifts and wanders,
casting her glance across ranks of waves
shackled to wind and marching like slaves.
She flexes wings to the weight of the gale,
sheeting feather to a broad reach.
Hooking her beak to storm, she upsails,
shooting under nimbus. Crests breach
troughs, hollows carved in the roof over whales
where she rockets and wheels, where, each
to each, gulls and fulmars call across
measures beaten by my albatross.
Peter Munro is a fisheries scientist who works in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and Seattle. Munro’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry, the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Iowa Review, the Birmingham Poetry Review, Passages North, The Cortland Review, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, Compose, Rattle, The Literary Review, Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. Listen to more poems at his website.
We were recovering Atka mackerel tags, three days’ run to the west of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, on a head-and-gut trawler called the Seafisher. In the wheelhouse, discussing strategy for sampling down in the factory, we got bored. Laysan albatrosses were hard at work all around the boat. Our conversation veered toward the magnificence of that species. I noted the obvious, that the Laysan albatross was kind of hot, a notion I have harbored for decades because, well, they are. Susanne, the lead scientist and a friend of many years, couldn’t stop laughing. I began to sense it might have been a bit odd to say. Thus, the first line showed up.
What is one thing about you that people assume?
I sense that others often assume it valid to give me the benefit of the doubt. I believe this is because I am a white male and somewhat physically imposing. Or they assume it because they are dips.
What is your spirit animal?
One of the polychaetes, no doubt, though I bristle that you should need to ask why.
Rock, paper, or scissors?
Rock. Rock always beats everything, (unless you are playing that ridiculous hand game, of course). Plus, what else could a guy named after Cephas answer?