The Sea Lion
Blue Unicorn - February 01, 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.