Everything What's Wrong With Pelicans
I think a pelican is such a bad thing, and I hate to look at it more than almost anything. Your throat is your stomach and you are so, so proud of being mostly mouth. The world is meals to you, the flying scoop, and you are forever pregnant with breakfast. There is no end to the pouch of you, and I am so, so afraid of being stowed inside your handbag neck, your hateful endless sack of mouth. The expression “in rude health” seems made for you, vital from obscenity, gliding over every beach in the world with a thrashing dinner-pail strapped to you. You look like mealtime disrespect and the worst bag, a cornucopia in reverse.
A beak’s for hiding eating and looking flash. A toucan’s beak’s all right, a sparrow’s too. Your beak gives up and turns right back into skin — a condom mouth that outlines everything en route to die in you. Why make me look at that. Why make me see that. I know a bird’s got rights to peck and gulp, that nature’s red in tooth and claw, but you make (as it were) a meal out of it. I can see a dying carp silhouetted in your thin-skinned neck, bulging out the scrotal wattle like a mother kangaroo in reverse. Gestating a full fish dinner, with jaunty little eyes.
The Chatner is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
And you’re much too big for trees, but still you roost. You sit like heavy awful fruit and hackle all the branches down, like thirty-eight years old that climbs on Santa’s lap. You don’t behave your size. You’re a lollipop and pigtails, sixty-five.
Why put digestion on display? Then when you’re folded up it’s worse, the same hateful false demure as prim crossed legs. Your neck and mouth lie fat together like pairs of nunchucks. And you have no business living sometimes as long as fifty years. That’s a turtle’s life. That’s elephants and whales and now and then very special horses. Birds should live as long as pillows, then turn out.
You live too long on wriggling dinners. I’ve seen you eating smaller birds, seen the profile of a panicked bird ensacked inside a bird, and that’s not right for me to see. Sometimes first you sport yourself, tossing dinner up from your bill to gullet it — that’s cheating. Eating twice. And then a third time, when it finally plunges down your inside stomach. Man, I’ve seen you eat a pigeon. That’s no way for a bird to die. At least a falcon tears them open, there’s a peace of sorts in slashing, waits to hunch over a corpse before the ripping really starts. You kill them all and let God sort it out later, like the Crusades.
Who gave your throat permission to carry a bag, that’s what I want to know. And when you stretch your mouth apart to smile, it’s the widest cluttered smile. Dinner-littered, with your camel mouth. A bird’s mouth’s got no business stretching; thank the parakeet and sparrow for keeping their beak one small arrowhead apiece, thank the cormorant, consistent, thank the duck for nice proportions. You should fall out of the sky like Wile E. Coyote with that anvil full of dinner you’ve got wrapped around your throat. Wheelbarrow-faced bird, a feathered gulp. I hate and fear you so damn much. I hope you’re never flying full of me.