Coney Island

the smallest seals are spinning in their dreams,
flippers crossed on their bellies
as they float on their backs
(then sides, then backs)
under blue skies and sun.
the largest seal is rocketing
from wall to window and back again,
torpedoing straight at the kids
who point and laugh and shriek.
he curves at the last second,
arcing onto his side, slicing through
the water on his back, eyes shut tight.

after the tanks of jellyfish and anemones
pulsing quietly, seahorses twining their tails
around water plants, swaying in currents
like the kelp, the world is too bright.
you sneeze and i blink in the sunlight
and even with my eyes closed it's like
someone's cinematic dream of summer:
salt air and ice cream, coppertone spf 30.

applause from the grandstand: the sea lions
are doing their tricks, tossing beach balls
catching fish in open mouths.
we've missed our chance
to squirm on metal bleachers: have lingered,
instead, watching the walruses and their funny
whiskered faces, the surprising grace
of their tails. inside it's cool and dark
and the crowds ebb and flow, the press and crush
of strollers passes and we've got the glass wall
all to ourselves, to press our noses against
until it's time to leave the ocean behind.

June 2005