Nearly Every Songbird on Earth Is Eating Plastic

Martha Silano

nearly every rip is a crisp pact,nearly every step is a disabled piss,a slip, a psst, is past, is pastthe squawking headline, belowthe photo of a juvenile herring gullclasping in its beak, sailing in its scat,ridding from its ass, the remainsof a Yoplait parfait. In 1960, 5%of sea-faring avians ate plastic.In 1960, fewer sporks, fewer caps,fewer cigarette tips. By 1980,the number had jumped to 80%,a stirrer, straw, & Starbucks lidexplosion. Global productiondoubles by the decade, global lipspart, global rods cast, globaldisablers dig, global dips subtract.By 2028, more plastic swirlingin that gargantuan garbage gyre,that loosely collected rubbishspectacle than all the plasticfactory-spat since plastic-ing began.When auklets stab at shrink wrap,when pigeon guillemots gulpDoritos bags, there's no roomin a gut for a mollusk, a morselof crab. Punches holesin their organs. Strips parts. Scrapsscripts. When birds chew Blowpopwrappers, guzzle Glad bags,courtship desists. When one birdeats 200 pieces. When one bird,piling and bridling, is trapped.When one bird's trackdeparts. "If you add plasticto a gut, it will make a difference,"said the gadfly petrel never. Subtracthow many there were, take two awayfrom three. Take away: a voicevamoosing, an attic collapsing,a number deeply dinged, teeteringon cast away, on doused, on dropping to nil.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Langdon Cook

Martha Silano is the author of five books of poetry, including Gravity Assist (Saturnalia Books), What the Truth Tastes Like (Two Sylvias Press), Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books), and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. She also co-authored The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press). Martha’s poems have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, New England Review, and North American Review, among others. Awards include the James Hearst Poetry Prize and the Robert and Adele Schiff Award in Poetry. Her work appears in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry series, and she has been awarded writing fellowships from the Millay Colony for the Arts, the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and Yaddo, among others. Martha teaches at Bellevue College in Bellevue, WA. Learn more about Martha and her work at

Issue 45

Notre Dame, Illinois

The University of Notre Dame

Poetry Editor
Orlando Menes

Managing Editor
Nazli Koca

Founding Editor
Valerie Sayers

The Notre Dame Review is an independent, non-commercial magazine of contemporary American and international fiction, poetry, criticism and art. Our goal is to present a panoramic view of contemporary art and literature—no one style is advocated over another. We are especially interested in work that takes on big issues by making the invisible seen, that gives voice to the voiceless—work that gives message form through aesthetic experience.

In addition to showcasing celebrated authors like Nobel laureates Seamus Heaney and Czeslaw Milosz, the Notre Dame Review introduces readers to authors they may have never encountered before, but who are doing innovative and important work.

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.