A poem by Leo Yung.


Captive Sea Lion









At six months I was taken

from my mother, who I never saw again,

carted off to an unfamiliar place

of narrow, shallow pools, grit and gravel,

a scorching sun beating down on my back.


When I thought I would lay out to die,

the hand stretched out to save me,

clean me, feed me,

wash me, hug me,

soft fingers stroking my adolescent coat,

almost a substitute.


The hand would make me do movements

I could not understand. Why should I

arch my back and put my two front fins together?

The wet, glistening sound was unnatural, as was

hobbling across the burning floor after a striding man.

But the hand would not feed me otherwise. I

stared at it, and it was spectacularly mute.


Day after day I was paraded before crowds

Of shouts and screams, flashes and waves. It

did me in, even as I did as I was told. The hand

fed me, petted me. I did all I could, following it,

parade after parade, week after week,

until my fins and belly could take no more and I

would not follow,


then the hand never fed me again. Instead

foreign fingers offered fish to my weary head

after the chink of coin and whisper of paper.

I slept in the shallows, hungry, lying in stale water.

Days flitted by in unforgiving sun.

I dreamt little,

tried not to dream of the hand.





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