We watch as the terns flock on the beach—
migrants here from their nest places north.
They confer in numbers of similar breed
in search of food at the edge of the surf.
Seizing a moment, a native gull is
emboldened and tries in vain to fit in,
leaps in the flock and waddles and sits
and feigns the comfort of an old friend.
But the terns whir and scatter like shells
and chatter in beak language their flock knows
and bitch a bit and badger the gull
until the misfit gives up and goes.
All up and down the beach it repeats:
a dance of rejection, of racial shame—
sand piper, curlew, tern and egret—
and I see how “Birds of a feather” was named.