Bio Note: I’m an out-or-work contractor with plenty of time to write poems in these days of sheltering in place. For better or worse, California has closed most parks and beaches. For worse, really. I miss going for long walks at low tide. I miss the seals and the surfers and the spouting whales. Until Covid-19 can be tamed, this poem takes me back.
Gibby argues with Mom about boys,
about curfew and blow jobs and “It’s not like when you were a hippie, Mom.” Mom takes Gibby for a driving lesson. Still steaming, Gibby not concentrating so they stop at Pescadero Beach. Pacific waves flatten as they lap, flow, cooling tempers, cooling toes. Look — a seal! A fat furry sausage in sunshine, lying sidewise behind boulders. “It must be injured,” Gibby says. A tension of body, quiver of muscle. In the eyes, a focus of internal force. “She’s in labor,” Mom says. The seal sighs. Her sides bulge, rise, then nostrils blow little storms of sand. “Not like people,” Gibby says. “Huh?” Mom asks. “She doesn’t scream in childbirth,” Gibby says. “Neither did I,” Mom says. Gibby is silent. “In real life,” Mom says, “it’s not like the movies.” Gibby chews a lock of hair. “Neither is sex,” Gibby says, “for all I know.” “Yes!” Mom laughs. “For all we know.” From outside the circle of rocks they watch. Gibby records with phone as a seal pup emerges, squirms randomly until mama spanks with a fin, guides her pup flopping to a teat. Gibby whispers Happy birthday, little seal. Then to Mom, sternly: “Okay. I’ll drive us home.” And again, as if Mom missed it: “Okay.”(Originally appeared in Oyster River Pages)
©2020 Joe Cottonwood
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