Gulls in the Valley

shear from shore so long
they forget home, but home’s
not why they’re here. They gather

their stalled committees
in empty lots. They scan
dry streams for open-

mouthed dumpsters drooling
crumpled wrappers. On black-
tipped wings they sweep

east, where Mt. Hamilton
slips green into her pockets,
smooths her foothills’

blonde flanks, blushes
when dusk falls at her feet.
Without the mountains,

how will we know mercy
when we see it? How will we
know night in rooms

chattered with orange street-
light? In darkness,
gulls thread between struts,

their cries
swallowed by traffic.
They’ll find some

unfamiliar landing.
They’ll turn their heads
and tuck their beaks

under folded wings
and sleep
one-legged. What will they

dream? Pebbled eye,
mottled head, this one’s
webbed foot crumpled

to a stump. This valley
eats itself and grows
tight as a purse.

Chip bags, flicked cigs,
snarl of fishing line—all
the ways we betray

this world instead of praising—
the gulls have learned to live
on this. They’ll greet

the coming day
with their devastated,
exultant screams.

Erin Redfern’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the New Ohio Review, Fire & Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager Books), DMQ Review, and New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (New Voices Project). She is the author of the chapbook Spellbreaking and Other Life Skills (Blue Lyra Press Delphi Series) and a co-recipient of the 2016 Robert H. Winner Award given by the Poetry Society of America. Erin currently reads for Poetry Center San Jose’s Caesura.