At year’s end we hike from a silent old creamery
siding faded to a butter yellow
down to the raucous Pacific coast.
The marine fog layer descends
on an unseen zip line running
north to south, a forbidding darkness
yielding to warm splashes of sunshine.
Using seagulls as markers,
we follow lowland until we must rise
out of grass and scrub sage
to climb dunes, and, there, first,
a young male elephant seal
asleep on sand, then an exhausted second.
When we mount the final dune
O massive snorting flesh!
O the drop-jawed awe!
struck by the colossal herd,
a thousand in congregation
in a single view, weaners motive
while mothers snore, slumber,
lumber for a free spot,
a lone bull sneezes, snickers,
squawks, his stuttering thunder
caroming off cliff walls,
a roar of loneliness, of request,
of ambition, of defeat.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife. He works in mental health. He has work in Nature Writing, Terrene, The Monarch Review, The Nervous Breakdown, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize.