In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Late afternoon & flawed sea unfurling
Wave on wave, diminishing sun
Sculpting copper roads of light on wet sand.
Walking, I came upon a beached dolphin
Battered by sand & the beaks of gulls.
First urged myself to walk on, avoiding
Dead things with white bellies mottled
Black by wind and talon. Not stare
At the zero of its stillness, blood
Tugging water washed from a hole
In its head, or touch the rubbery beauty
Of its lifeless fins, or marvel
At the jade serenity gracing its delicate
Mouth, the coral hues asleep there.
For I have never seen a richer smile
On friend or lover’s face than this
The gangster of the sea gave back
So carelessly to the solar bell
Mushrooming on the dark water.
A wave came spattering around my ankles,
Reminding me that the sea had business
Here with one of its own, that no rituals
Shrined the reality of drying blood,
No Dolphin Father loomed & no songs sounded.
I kept walking, day used up, dreaming
A human love not of the sea
Or its shining casualties,
Guided by what seemed
An echo of the first unwrinkling stars,
Memory beyond memory, a dolphin’s
Void & engulfing smile.