He guarded his territory still,
would have no landing
in his shrinking world.
While the boat distracted,
Guide and I ascended rope ladder
hanging from a cliff, came in behind.
Shopworn, shoddy-furred, excoriated.
Moths of man had been at him.
He processed, nonetheless, upon the sand,
the black volcanic residue of sand.
A single sea lion processional,
Elgar playing in his head.
Mighty, majestic creature was he yet.
Primordiality upon the sands.
His rage, roar, triumph—
notice served when we first climbed
from sea with him, Sea-Kind.
Guide and I lingered,
kept the frenzied birds at bay.
Hours passed, birds obsessed,
he slowing, slowing, sinking,
sinking to the black volcanic soil.
When the final moment came, he knew,
rose off his flippers,
stood almost upright upon his tail,
Milton’s prelapsarian serpent.
Bellowed, roared, went quiet,
slipped elegantly down dead.
We half-dragged, half-lifted,
sent him back into the sea.
I did not cry.
I recited “Thanatopsis” to him.
Lynn Veach Sadler