The Sea Lion

Blue Unicorn, February 1st, 1986

The Sea Lion (For Richard Brautigan)

A friend says you stopped for an hour

To consider its black hulk--

A dead sea lion washed up on Bolinas Bay

As if no one else would have bothered

Before the tide took it back out

And left nothing behind but smooth sand.

Maybe you were wondering what kind of life

He once led out there in the lionizing surf:

How many bulls he cowed,

How many cows he bullied,

What manner of pups he sired,

How he sunned himself on rock beds

Amid the admiring herd.

And when he died alone,

Was he abandoned by lovers and friends,

By the capricious seas--

Or by himself?

All you knew for sure

Was that only his carcass remained:

Hide stinking from too much sun,

Flayed to grisly ribbons

From something that had clawed its way out,

Eyes a glassy black

From bloated expectation.

At summer's end you stopped wondering.

Friends found your rotting corpse beside

A bottle of booze and a .44.

For a month or more,

You hadn't even been missed.

But the rest of us, too, are lost

With you now on those smoothed-over sands,

Squinting out beneath our worn hats

At those meretricious waters

Fishing for more than trout. The distant crashing of the ocean

Sounds sometimes like a lone sea lion

Barking to be heard

Over the empty hiss

Of the leveling tide.

Some of us still hear.

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