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 collecting 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’ll try to just be friendly and they’ll 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 and fish while making fun of you

And if they ever venture forth and land upon the piers

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


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 amongst the oyster-rocks

If in a nook I see a snook that shook a hook it took

Unlike the cook in Melville’s book that’s how my sushi looks


When old man throws his guts you have to dart too minnow-quick

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

I have a couple extra chins that waggle down my neck

Or maybe more than two, perhaps, it’s really of no feck



Photo: Kelly Dean

‘Cause 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 gracefully stops


My wings are three feet each, and still 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 a 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

I’ll offer up a gut or two to some sweet beak perchance


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

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

We soar up wing on wing and maybe drop 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 sea oats, shell and sand

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

So 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 sometimes hard to catch

And more the beaks to fill, my pride can’t always make that snatch

If then we must raise nestlings on some 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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