When the Valdez oil spill occurred, Robert Bly penned this prose poem, I thought I would dig it out and post it:
The Dead Seal Near McClure's Bay
Walking north along the point, I find a dead seal. From a few
feet away, he looks like a brown log. The body is on its back, dead only a
few hours. I stand and look at him. There's a quiver in the dead flesh:
My God, he's still alive. And a shock goes through me, as if a wall of my
room had fallen away.
His head is arched back, the small eyes closed; the whiskers sometimes
rise and fall. He is dying. This is oil. Here on its back is the oil
that heats our houses so efficiently. Wind blows fine sand back toward
the ocean. The flipper near me lies folded over the stomach, looking like
an unfinished arm, lightly glazed with sand at its edges. The other flipper
lies half underneath. And the seal's skin looks like an old overcoat,
scratched here and there -- by sharp mussel shells maybe.
I reach out and touch him. Suddenly, he rears up, turns over. He
gives three cries: Awaark! Awaark! Awaark! -- like the cries from
Christmas toys. He lunges toward me, I am terrified and leap back,
though I know there can be no teeth in that jaw. He starts flopping
toward the sea. But he falls over, on his face. He does not want to go back
to the sea. He looks up at the sky, and he looks like an old lady who has
lost her hair. He puts his chin back down on the sand, rearranges his flippers,
and waits for me to go. I go.
The next day I go back to say goodbye. He's dead now. But he's not.
He's a quarter mile farther up the shore. Today he is thinner, squatting
on his stomach, head out. The ribs show more: each vertebra on the back
under the coat is visible, shiny. He breathes in and out.
A wave comes in, touches his nose. He turns and looks at me -- the
eyes slanted; the crown of his head looks like a boy's leather jacket bending
over some bicycycle bars. He is taking a long time to die. The whiskers
white as porcupine quills, the forehead slopes . . . . Goodbye, brother, die
in the sound of the waves. Forgive us if we have killed you. Long live your
race, your inner-tube race, so uncomfortable on the land, so comfortable in
the ocean. Be comfortable in death, then, when the sand will be out of
your nostrils, and you can swim in long loops through the pure death,
ducking under as assassinations break above you. You don't want to be
touched by me.
I climb the cliff and go home the other way.