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January 28, 2008

Pam’s Poem

On our recent sailing trip, we swam with the sea lions off their rocks in the Sea of Cortez. Friend Marc got scratched or bitten by a playful cub; same cub bit my flipper, just as my puppy Bruiser would have, when I used it to block his rocketing attack from below.

But my sister Pam Zino – nurse/writer/Neried at heart – was swarmed by the sea lions. She disappeared in a crush of them for a frightening moment. She handled them wonderfully and wrote a poem about that and more which she has given me permission to post here.

Without Even Closing My Eyes

I feel the world rocking.

A bright blue rocking

into sandy bights of red spine

rising from the Sea of Cortez.

Wind propelled, cradled by swell

the cat’s hulls cleave

the leeward sea of the red range.

Windward of the cliffs, the waves

  pound rock jetties in their wake.

We forge a saltwater river in

a mangrove thicket to the far shore.

Beaks folded like bayonettes to their chest ,
Pelicans guard the way to a clear lagoon

braced by a warm wall of rock

from crashing sea.

Which, days on land, I still feel rocking me

  as it rocked when I spotted sea lions cupped in its peaks.

“There! At one o’clock,” I yelled. “rising ‘fore the bow.”

We searched the waters. Was that one? More there?

Undulating crests dazzled with water and light

mirroring phantasmagoria, or actual sight?

Then suddenly their bray bounced off a long shelf

of jagged pinnacled rock

They cavorted, snout to snout, trumpeting at play

slapping flippers, rolling about, posing on steep inclines

smooth young pups yelping , huge bewhiskered elders bellowing

The island a riot of sound and form.

I dove into the sea.

Surfacing, a pup breached before me

Another lion torpedoed beneath

I donned snorkel and mask

had them in place, and just as I did

All sight was erased

By a swift silent eddy of lions inspecting me

They circled about

Prodding, nuzzling, brushing, gumming

Their current whirled in

an exquisite softness of water and flesh

an inquisitive stream of motion and press

And a worry of possible biting

- Of welcome to fighting -

Do nothing to disturb them, I thought

Make no sudden move causing fear

Be one with their curiosity

This is what you dove to be near.

Will one breach beneath me, I wondered

Will I be carried on a back?

As if divining my thoughts

a lion did just that

But instead of coming from beneath,

mounted me. I was underneath.

I could feel its length, feel its breadth

yet it was weightless:

a muscle of gently suspended flesh

The gesture so exhalted me

it broke my reverie. I called out

and the circle dispersed to the depths.


Yet still I feel their water rocking me

See the sea-furnaced igneous range

with sandstone surface gargoyled by wind

its coves of shelled beach

its sere of cactii - silent witness to blaze and gale

And still I feel the water rocking me

though now I hail so far from its reach.

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