The Pellycan

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Photo: Kelly Dean

The Pellycan

Poem by Kelly Dean


I am a pellycan, I am, and brown to be exact

I stay around the fishing pier for fishy tidbit snacks

The old man on the dock collects his dollars for his bait

Does cut off guts and heads and skins and scales that I have ate


I know there’s haughty pellycans; they’re snooty through and through


Photo: Kelly Dean

You try to just be friendly and they turn their beaks from you

They show up once a year in milky social gatherings

And fidget ‘bout their pretty bumps and pelly canny things


They’re much too good to ever eat old heads and guts and goo

They always stay in groups while fishing — making fun of you

And if they ever venture forth and land upon the pier

It’s only so you see them in their lovely feathered sneer


American White Pelicans, Sanibel, Photo: Kelly Dean

So mostly I stick to myself and float about the docks

Or wait until the tide goes down among the oyster-rocks

Then in a nook I see a snook that shook a hook it took —

Unlike that cook in Melville’s book that’s how my sushi look!


When old man throws his guts you have to dart so minnow-quickly

Or ugly, skinny, long-neck chickens eat ‘m in the nickly

I have a couple extra chins that waggle down my neck

Or maybe more than two perhaps, it’s more respect than feck



Photo: Kelly Dean

As when I take the air there’s really nothing that compares

To graceful soaring wonderment as if there’s nothing there

I swoop and crash and splash and sail, the stingray of the tops

No diving miracle like me is judged by graceful stops


My wings are three feet each, and yet my beak is nearly two

Inside my floppy chins I’ll hold two pounds of fishy too

My head is good and strong, I show my tongue in proud respect

The Ancient Mariner’s no match — he’d hang below my neck!


My Momma Pellycan did chide me: “I should be discrete;

That beauty is one’s own beholding, not the food one eats.

So watch out for the lines and snares they hang among mangroves;

Then catch your girly pellycan and start your treasured trove!”


So with my floppy feet, and floppy neck, and floppy wings

I show up at the dock each day and see what ripples bring

I perch on water’s nest in quiet stately elegance

Then coyly puke a gut or two for some sweet beaks, perchance?


Then if she smiles that sword-like smile and winks that snail-like eye

I’ll cackle-up a fish eyeball and ask her for a fly

We soar up wing on wing and maybe poop on winter’s bird

Then bee-line for a windlass just before we quickly swerve


We’ll laugh and laugh and laugh, regurgitate, and laugh some more

While feeling something’s new we’ve never really felt before

She’ll nuzzle up to my beak then I’ll nuzzle up to hers

Then find a private spot away from devilish sandspurs


There just beyond the mangroves, just beyond the human traps

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Photo: Kelly Dean

Where sunset ripples streak the glassy tops in salty laps

Where winds rush headily with kelpish smells aloft in air

And then one random breeze — a briny spray on feather hair



I’ll brush away a roundish spot of oats and shell and sand

And there will be our nest to raise our clumsy, clownish clan

Then if the fish in great abundance always find our bill

Our tiny issues always have the freshest at their fill


Though proud I am — I know fresh fish are often hard to catch

Yet more the beaks to fill, my pride won’t always make that snatch

If then we must raise nestlings on that fishy contraband

We’ll teach them they’re not pellynots… they’re proudly pellycans!


— Kelly Dean



“Feckless fools should keep canny tongues.” — Scottish proverb

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