A Few Words On “Albatross”

Many creatures populate my new book, The Boxer of Quirinal, but today I’m thinking of the singularly impressive albatross. For your reading pleasure, I have included my poem, “Albatross,” below. I have also included my commentary, which originally appeared in the free-to-download Reader’s Companion.


For its first five years the bird does not return to land.

Home is not land’s end,
a fledgling nest
of food and rest.

Home is the wind
you glide, the sea
you glean unendingly

until a hunger comes
to Wheel and Go
not Home

but what you can’t yet know:
the clambering of kind
on kind.

Commentary on Albatross

The albatross is a bird of legend. It carries the souls of drowned sailors. It brings bad luck to any who kill one. Here’s Coleridge in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:

Ah! Well a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

Modern science finds the albatross equally remarkable. It has the largest wingspan of any bird — more than 10 feet. It mates for life and once it leaves its natal nest, it spends its life in flight over the Southern ocean waves, never landing for years at a time. It returns to the headlands of its birth only to mate, and no one knows how it finds that place.

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