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