The scaup is searching for a shore
To build her nest, a lonely beach,
Or rocky cliff no fox can reach.
Egg-gobblers and roosting mothers war.
There is no land, just churn and spray,
The billows heave and wave-crests foam,
Nowhere for her to make a home,
If there’s a coast, it’s far away.
From hovering and fluttering, her wings
Are weary, and her soaring droops.
Neither scanning, nor her endless loops
Find shelter from cold blusterings.
And soon she’ll drop, and soon she’ll drown.
Unless she finds a landing spot.
And there, out there, a blip, a dot.
A floe, an island made of ice,
Too big to bob, and just as firm
As any continent, a berm
Bears, seals or penguins would think nice.
Not great for birds, but she’s no choice.
She lands, she rests, she lays her eggs.
Her frigid roost has numbed her legs,
But it’s a nest, so she’ll rejoice.
Her eggs are warm, and soon they’ll hatch.
Hatchlings can sip from melted snow,
But grubs don’t squirm on this bare floe,
And there’s no fish around to catch.
Icebergs are barren and they’re hard.
But far beneath the ice and sea,
Rich bottomland, a cozy lea,
The sea-bed makes a better yard.
Born to water, they will breathe
Water, as their mother did the air.
And though aquatic birds aren’t rare
Gilled scaups are scarce as hens that teethe.
A separate species, her lost young
Will never know their mother soared,
Or dropped the offspring she adored.
In ocean depths unwarmed by sun.
In that strange element they’ll thrive,
Becoming what has never been,
A species hitherto unseen.
Unknown to her, but they’ll survive.
She drops the eggs, and trills goodbye.
Then, mournfully, the scaup takes wing.
To cross what’s past accomplishing.
The coast’s too far, but she will try.