For Nils

“Elephant seals have a serious Oedipal problem.”
All that young male flesh, snorting and whiskered,
Sprawls on lank rocks, waiting years for the big
Bulls to die. It’s ignoble. Over on the next shelf
They can see plump women with their faces turned
Away, like those angels who would not sing to Milton.

We stood in the armory at the New Year’s dance,
Looking at girls with their faces turned toward us.
We shuffled and whispered. No Big Father warned
Us we would be killed if we walked over.
We saw our mother’s face in theirs, and hesitated.
They saw their fathers’ faces in ours, and didn’t care.