Jonathon Livingston Seagull – A Poem (A Heroic Crown of Sonnets)

1. The Breakfast Flock
To fly was so much more than flapping wings
and while the Breakfast Flock besieged the fleet
that chummed the water, Jonathon had things
to do ‘sides squawk and dodge and fight to eat.
The thousand gulls began another day,
their raucous screeching testimony to
their group-think need to aggregate that way,
for they could see no other thing to do.
Yet Jonathon would so much rather fly.
He lived to fly while others flew to eat.
He flew a hundred feet into the sky
and practiced learning a new turning feat.
A disgrace others would not take so well,
so tight a curve he tried, he stalled and fell.


2. Level Flight
So tight a curve he tried, he stalled and fell.
But unashamed, (though seagulls never stall),
he stretched his wings and tried again- as well
you note: he was not common after all.
He found that when less than a half wingspan
above the water he could float on air,
effortlessly, a most efficient plan
that let him glide most far without a care.
But others cared! His dad and mother asked”
“Why Jon, can’t you be like all of the rest
and leave low flying to the birds so tasked-
the pelicans who surely do that best?”
“Be like others, avoid the social stings
Conform,” they said, “try doing natural things.”


3. Being Obedient
“Conform,” they said, try doing natural things.
Jon really tried for several days that week.
He tried to wear his mother’s apron strings.
he screeched and dove and fought with wing and beak.
He flocked around the piers and fishing boats
and dove for scraps of fish and tossed out bread.
He chaffed against the ennui that promotes.
So pointless- he could learn to fly instead.
Deliberately he then dropped his fish,
a hungry old gull chasing him was pleased.
To learn to fly was Jonathon’s real wish.
and now the opportunity was seized.
I’ll not conform to nonsense they compel-
Nope! I’m going to fly and soon excel


4. Fixed Wing Flight
Nope! I’m going to fly and soon excel.
Alone again way out to sea, his need
to learn was something not to quench or quell
so practice was the plan, this week’s goal: speed.
He learned why gulls don’t make such speedy dives;
at seventy, the wings become unstable
on the upstroke. No matter how one strives,
that darn gull upstroke one cannot enable.
So Jon decided trying something man
had use, a fixed-wing for his fast descent.
He flapped ’til fifty MPH and then
held his wings still and only slightly bent.
From two thousand feet, plunging without lulls
he set the world recorded speed for gulls.


5. Speed Record
He set the world recorded speed for gulls.
exceeding ninety MPH- then crashed.
Unconscious still dreamed of lofty goals
and sought to solve that problem, unabashed.
He woke with wings like ragged bars of lead
but weight of failure was still even worse.
He wished he’d simply sink and end up dead,
for failures seemed his own repeated curse.
But sinking low he heard a voice within
“I’m limited by nature, am I not?
If meant for speed I’d have wings short and thin-
like falcons and would not have to be taught. “
He’d join the flock, and once again act right,
by accident he flew toward home at night.


6. Epiphany
By accident he flew toward home at night;
“It’s dark!”, an inner voice intoned, get down!-
seagulls you know, will never find that right.”
If you were meant to fly at night you clown,
an owls eyes you’d have – also charts for brains
and the short wings of falcons… short wings- wait.”
The answer pushed a rushing through his veins,
short wings has been the missing needed trait.
So, now he rose two thousand feet above-
“I’ll fold my wings and fly on tips alone.”
No thought of death- pursuing what he loved
he “knew” that he’d just found his new speed zone.
Re-born, rejoiced, this single seagull mulls..
he’d found the inspiration Flock-thought dulls.


7.  200 MPH
He’d found the inspiration Flock-thought dulls.
He dove, his wings now clamped against his side
it was as if some laws he would annul.
At such amazing speed it was a ride.
The faintest twitch of wingtips promptly eased
him from his dive, and shot him over waves-
a cannonball of grey- and he was pleased;
His vows abandoned for the life he craves.
Now practice was required and sun- up found
him up five thousand feet above the fleet
about to dive again and to astound.
And that he did in manner not so neat.
He’d learned to speed but hadn’t planned it right;
he just missed hitting flock of gulls in flight.


8. Banished
He just missed hitting flock of gulls in flight.
but learned that day to turn at speed, the loop,
the roll, the pinwheel, too to his delight!
The Council came together as a group
and shamed him for his acts! He was cast out.
He spent the rest of his days all alone
but that was not what sorrow was about,
it was their missing what they might have known.
The flock refused the glory learning brought.
They would keep scrabbling after chopped fish heads
while delicious fresh fish were easily caught
by streamlined dives beneath the waves instead.
Then Jon saw how good life could really be,
the flock then cast him out and set him free.


9. Years later
The flock then cast him out and set him free.
Two gulls as pure as starlight flew beside
him- friendly, smiling; their wings couldn’t be
an inch from his wingtips on either side.
He tested them. One knot above stall speed,
then dives slow rolls and loops-they matched each move.
They passed completely every test indeed
“We’re brothers came their words so strong and smooth.
We’ve come to take you home for you have learned.
One school is finished, yet another waits.”
At last he said “I’m ready”, and up he turned
with gulls he knew were heaven’s delegates.
He’d spend his life at mental freedom’s helm;
his freedom took him to a higher realm

10. The Elder
His freedom took him to a higher realm.
The same old Jonathon looked through his eyes,
but form had changed enough to overwhelm.
Seagulls here all seemed satisfied and wise.
“Chiang…”, (said to one soon to leave this world),
this isn’t heaven after all is it?”
“Your wings are not the only part unfurled,
my son, you’re learning and will never quit.
And heaven’s not a time or place at all;
it’s being perfect- barriers all surpassed!
You’ll find perfection, if such speed’s your call,
when going any takes no time. That’s fast.
Keep learning son, and you’ll begin to see
where nothing lays beyond reality.”

11.  An Instructor
Where nothing lays beyond reality
Jon let his love become his life’s new goal.
He found some others outcast such as he,
and assumed what was meant to be his role.
When Fletcher Lynn Seagull became his charge,
outcast because his dream was just to fly,
Jon felt an obligation to discharge,
Jon taught him how- and more, he taught him why.
For now, ’twas not for him alone he strove,
but for all blinded by their seagull-hood.
He sought to share life’s very treasure trove,
to teach the Flock their blindness was not good.
The mission seemed to some to overwhelm
one needed only guidance at the helm.


12. Return to Flock
One needed only guidance at the helm.
and Jonathon was now the one to teach.
“Your mind can go to any place or realm;
there is no speed that lies beyond your reach.”
To his eight students he announced, “It’s now
that we return to Flock.” Some anguish rose
among his group. “By law we’re outcasts, how
can we return?” Jon told them how it goes.”
“We’re not now flock, and where we wish we go.”
and thus they flew, a tight formation group,
they were perhaps the very first airshow!
The Flock’s unblinking eyes all watched the troop.
Apart but near the students stretched their wings,
within Flock’s view Jon taught his crew new things.


13.  Overcoming the Physical
Within Flock’s view Jon taught his crew new things.
One day with dangling wing a gull approached
“I want to fly, but flying takes two wings…”
“You want to fly, and so you will Jon coached.
And when he did, he screamed, “Look at me fly!”
A thousand gulls approached the training class
now eager to be shown just how and why.
Jon taught that ritual habits must not last.
For laws restricting freedom are contrived;
they served up order only at great cost,
and while the Flock continued to survive
the thrill of living freely has been lost.
When soul is free that’s when a gull’s heart sings;
To fly was so much more than flapping wings


14.  Passing the Torch
To fly was so much more than flapping wings
Your body’s just a picture in your mind,
Your spirit’s where reality now clings.
You’re anywhere you want to be, you’ll find.
When Jonathon left- thought himself away,
a student stepped into the teacher role.
And Fletcher knew that he too’d learn some day
and teleport to Jon on beach or shoal.
For while we’re here and now it’s also true
that now is also everywhere right now
and quantum physics makes up part of you
through multi-universes anyhow.
Enlightenment won’t come as soon for some
but living free will someday let it come.


To fly was so much more than flapping wings
So tight a curve he tried, he stalled and fell.
Conform they said, try doing natural things.
Nope! I’m going to fly and soon excel.
He set the world recorded speed for gulls.
By accident he flew toward home at night;
he found the inspiration Flock-thought dulls.
He just missed hitting flock of gulls in flight.
The flock then cast him out and set him free.
His freedom took him to a higher realm
where nothing lays beyond reality,
one needed only guidance at the helm.
Within Flock’s view Jon taught his crew new things;
to fly was so much more than flapping wings



© Lawrencealot – March 12, 2014

Author’s Notes:

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, written by Richard Bach, 
is a fable in novella form about a seagull learning about life
and flight, and a homily about self-perfection. 
It was first published in 1970 as “Jonathan Livingston Seagull — a story.”

Published March 12, 2014 on Allpoetry.com by Lawrence Eberhart.

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