Bri Bruce
South of Davenport

A gull rolling in the surf,
one gray, twisted wing
fallen limp
I shepherd the bird against oncoming waves;
and he settles, gives into me.

When I see there is nothing I can do
bright stain of blood on gray feathers
I set him down at the base of a sandstone cliff.
He does not struggle,
but rises slowly instead,
and toddles back to the sea.

Later, bending to wash the blood
from my hands, I think
there's something to be said
about the way an animal dies.

Several days later, I help a woman
pluck a battered loon from a tangle of seaweed,
cradle it in her jacket
bird tired from the foamy lick of waves.

I'm taking it to the Humane Society, she says,
the loon stiffening in her arms,
saving it from a death
awash with the driftwood, the trash,
the used needles,
wings outspread on dark sand.