poet Russell Thornton

Russell Thornton

Harbour Seals

They're driftwood, or worn buoys -
now as they stand up out of the water
and stare towards the shore, they're living mineral,
like people with only rudimentary eyes.
And now I see one closer, see it dive,
and realize they're seals. Lifting slicked
black heads, disappearing back down -
they're seals. At this distance, soundless,
though at other times I've heard seals cry:
pure non-human cries that go
to the human bitter root. They're out
of some unknown watery testament
made of their cries, their wavering gentle
screams. Now I see a dozen of them
farther off, sunning themselves on a log boom -
solid blacknesses bathing lazily
in the long late rays. They roll,
all black torso like the mummified
Pharaohs, the immortals of the once-imagined
Egyptian ancestors of the familiar ones,
the Gypsies who flit in and out of sight,
baptizing themselves in the dark nothing
at the savage margins. They roll over
into the water and are gone. Then bob up
new and black, being born again and again
into their blackness. Now I see that same one
swimming close, almost to the shore,
lifting liquid-like black and craning - it comes closer
as if I had whistled it up, asking for it,
and it had come, one of my lost ones,
my Gypsy dead. Seals all I can know now
of any of them. Seals that look out
in insouciant, terrible love - and can only
be other than seals because they're seals.

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Poem Edited: Friday, September 15, 2006

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