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The San Simeon Zebras by C.J. Sage

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Landscapes with Elephant Seals and Umbrellas

Sage, C.J.


In the water solitary creatures,

the elephant seals gather close on land

to mate and molt.  They slough their skin,


then off they go again into the sea

alone.  Upon the sand one wonders

why they huddle together so.


In the city I once saw a herd

of quick umbrellas open all at once—

all the owners purposely not touching—


and scuttle down the street en masse,

the black nylon and the taupe nylon

and all the rest bumped and bounced


off each other in the rain, like the rain

bounding off umbrellas, like molecules.

Like molecules every contact was followed,


as every contact must be, by estrangement.

There was once a man and woman

whose ribs collided—


neither one was ever seen again.

When the seals accidentally touch they bellow

and fuss, they throw their heads to the sky,


they wave and writhe and moan

the other away until again each feels

itself owner of the shoreline.


To either side of the rows they make

lined up along each other there is a mile

of empty beach.  Only a child makes use of it.


What kind of creature dares to stretch itself,

naked and warm-skinned, where no one else

has been?  Only a child.  Only a brilliant child.


A man I met, he was on the bus and humming

to himself, turned to me and said You look familiar.

Between his ribs and arm, a closed umbrella


licked his clothes with rain.  He moved

a little closer to make a place for another. 

I tell you, the ride was short! 


There is a family entering the beach,

verily against the rules.  There is a ranger,

she is kind, who moves to shoo them off.


Down the road there is a dune where scores

of nudes may paint themselves with sun.

Rarely, one of them brushes another.


Copyright © CJ Sage 2010

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