Jona Colson

Ode to the Gull

All gulls covet more than low tide— 
more than busted clams and refused oyster shells. 

They do what we can’t. They do the dirty work. 
When I was five, my mother took me to be baptized,  

but I ran back to the car, away from the pastor. 
I was too young to be that clean in his capable  

arms, and so close to the young man’s belly— 
the best part of being saved. 

I watch this gull save the dead crab that the current  
carried in—planning what needs to be done.  

The skill she knows she knows. First the lungs,  
then the spine, tiny bones, eyes—the claws long gone. 

The inverted carapace picked of meat and innards, prepared 
as if for the altar of wet sand, hallowed with dolomite and slate,

masses of seaweed and breathless scaled skins. Knowing that the best  
version of ourselves is after death.  

Jona Colson’s poetry collection, Said Through Glass, won the 2018 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. He is also the co-editor of This Is What America Looks Like: Poetry and Fiction from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (2021). His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. His translations and interviews can be found in Prairie Schooner, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Writer’s Chronicle. He is a professor of ESL at Montgomery College and lives in Washington, DC.