Lit Up
Published in

Lit Up


I saw a seagull with only one leg. I was about to ask “what happened” when she dropped the other leg and stood like normal

I saw a seagull with a missing foot, but she never put her foot down

I saw a group of seagulls sitting on the beach facing the wind. The opposite of what I’d do. That’s because the wind gets in my eyes and never ruffles my feathers

I saw a lone sanderling contemplating the lapping waves near one of the seagulls’ rocky hangouts. I wanted to ask, “where’s your flock, where are your friends,” when she ran up the beach and dropped into a depression in the sand left behind by a big shoe. A moment later, she was back by the water doing the little dance of chasing the waves that sanderlings do. She then skittered through the shallows and crossed over to a sandbar a few steps away. All by her lonesome self

I wondered if she’d been left behind on purpose or was distracted doing something else when her flock took off to a warmer place in the sand

I wondered if she was old and decided to wait out the end of the movie on this beach

I wondered if she was young and thought it would be an adventure to winter over with the seagulls

I saw a freight boat on the horizon, or maybe it was a mountain with its top blown off by mountaintop mining. Kinda confusing. I didn’t think climate change and sea-level rise were so far ahead that an Appalachian mountain became an island in the middle of the ocean

The freight boat was slowly drifting south, or maybe the waves were drifting north. I couldn’t say. I was never good with directions. Or with GPS. Unlike the birds. I wondered if the lone sanderling could hitch a ride south on the boat and catch up to her flock, and maybe we’d have a happy ending

I wonder if the sanderling knows the numbers of her kind have dwindled by some eighty percent in the last few decades. Because of housing shortages, most likely

I wonder if the ocean knows the marine life it’s been hosting for eternity has shrunk by more than eighty percent in the last few decades. Does it know how many went down the digestive tract of humanity before returning to the water as sewage amid the flotsam. That’s besides the waste from mountaintop removal in streams and groundwater

I fell asleep in the middle of a dystopian action flick with no ocean and no beach and all the scenes dimly lit with no sun anywhere to be seen. It was all urban blight and robocops everywhere and the hero resorted to crime to pay for his mom’s medical bills, and I thought, oh shoot, even in this fictional future we still don’t have Medicare for All?

November 2021



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brenda birenbaum

I have opinions, kinda like a musty paperback left out in the rain before the long drought