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The Poems of C.J. Sage

AE_poet1Editor’s note: In this week’s Poetry Corner, we feature the work of C. J. Sage who lives in Rio Del Mar. She is a realtor, and the editor of The National Poetry Review. Her poems appear in Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Threepenny Review, etc.  These poems are from her new book, “The San Simeon Zebras” (Salmon Poetry).

Landscapes with Elephant Seals and Umbrellas

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

AE_poet2licked 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.

Sea Canaries

The small white whales in packs of pods

keep their pacts with us, the fated beasts.

They wail their songs and the water wavers,

and we who signed them waive our rights

to have them. Here is where they belong,

all right, and here is where I leave them:

their pale, bountiful bodies to the sea.

I see a pail of fish and I would rather

feed on palm wood than palm one up

to shed it to those seabirds. To bate the brink

of bygone beauty, I bring no bait. A thatch shed

on the shore would keep me closer. O idol

of the gulls and wingèd seagirls and idle guitar

players, paddle deep and far off from my kind

who peddle our wares like love-me-kindly petals.

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