[Poem by Leah Mueller, photo by Georgia Park]
My boyfriend tells me
that feeding seagulls is like
pruning fungus. He stamps his
angry feet at them, as they converge
around our park bench, demanding food.
Nearby, a young man and woman
throw chunks of bread on the sidewalk
and laugh with delight. The gulls
roar over to them like spastic locomotives,
shrieking as they apply their brakes.
“Hey, calm down, buddy,”
the man tells my boyfriend,
“Those birds aren’t doing
anything to you.” His girlfriend
recoils on one end of the bench
and clutches the metal rungs tightly,
her face a mask of terror.
She is taking no chances
in the presence of a gull-hater.
In a nearby shop window,
REI is selling cushioned dog beds
for fifty dollars. A homeless
Native American man
wrapped in a filthy blanket
stands in front of the glass,
squints longingly at the pillows.
People rush by, preoccupied
with the details of sustenance.
My boyfriend and I turn
our backs on him,
wander home in the drizzle.
The homeless man lowers himself
slowly onto the bench,
but the gulls ignore him.
They’re smart enough to know
where their bread is coming from.
I don’t know why folks
feed seagulls, since the birds
are so goddamned demanding:
they strut about fretfully,
screaming as though the world was
filled with lazy waiters
who refuse to do their jobs properly.
Perhaps they’re right. The world
overflows with predators and prey,
and noise is the fool’s only method
of gaining attention.
I prefer to wait patiently for my bread
to come to me. Each day I awaken,
I tumble more stiffly
from my edge of the bed, glad because
I’m a little bit older
than I was yesterday, but
I’m also a lot less hungry.
[Leah Mueller is an independent writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of one chapbook, “Queen of Dorksville”, and two full-length books, “Allergic to Everything” and “The Underside of the Snake.”]