Several years ago, I co-edited an anthology of poems about birds, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to include this one, a delight. J. Allyn Rosser lives in Ohio. Her most recent book is “Mimi’s Trapeze” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). 

Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006


Pelicans in December

One can’t help admiring

their rickety grace

and old-world feathers

like seasoned boardwalk planks.

They pass in silent pairs,

as if a long time ago

they had wearied of calling out.

The wind tips them, their

ungainly, light-brown weight,

into a prehistoric wobble,

wings’-end fingers stretching

from fingerless gloves,

necks slightly tucked and stiff,

peering forward and down,

like old couples arm in arm

on icy sidewalks, careful,

careful, mildly surprised

by how difficult it has become

to stay dignified and keep moving

even after the yelping gulls have gone;

even after the scattered sand,

and the quietly lodged complaints.


Poem copyright 2014 by J. Allyn Rosser, “Pelicans in December,” from Mimi’s Trapeze, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of J. Allyn Rosser and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of “Poetry” magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.