The sea lion, gray, skin like rubber rain boots,
works blind now. The trainer, who wears her hair
in a braid like a horse’s and swallows her g’s,
says he went blind years ago and had to stop performing.
Now, instead of jumping and splashing for an audience,
he swims with tourists, glides beneath their hands, twirls
and spins at the trainer’s click, clap, click, snap.
He is older and slower, but still moves like a lion:
nose down, tail up, divine, diving and dipping
in the pool meant to feel, to him, like the ocean.
The ocean, he knows, feels in his whiskers – white
and pokey like an old man’s, like a porcupine’s needles –
is not here.
I stand in the pool, my fingers gripping
the tail of a dead fish, and wait: for the moment
when his head will pop up from the water and his neck
will bend back and his head will curve straight up,
for the yelp he will sound, the bark from deep down
in his belly, before the click, clap tells him to grab
the fish between his teeth and swallow it whole.
Photo by Paul Huber on Flickr