Editor’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
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.
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.