The Black-Backed Gull

Sue Vickerman

After you'd gone, I returned to the beach one day
with a Tesco's bag, picked plastics out of the jaw
of the wide-mouthed cave, extracted bottles
from the line of chewed flotsam. Flies, disturbed
from seaweed nests, complained around my head
and a gannet came close then plunge-dived
between the waves rushing at my boots.

Finally all the unnatural colours were collected
in my carrier. Hearing a cry, I turned to face
the cove's dry throat and saw a Macdonald's-red
slit neck staining the bric-a-brac left by the tide,
the lemon-fizz bill of a puffin. I scanned the cliffs,
aimed rocks at the dog-bark of the murderous
black-backed gull. Get away. Go. Get away.

After restoring the cove to shades of grey,
to how it was with you, I heard the cry again
and, looking back, found myself whisker-close
to the past; to the hollow, widowed eyes of a seal.