by Jessica Goody
The air is heavy with salt and smelt,
the ripe odor of green kelp and something sharp,
bitter and medicinal, like chlorine.
In the infirmary, the biology interns stomp
in basins of disinfectant to sterilize their shoes.
Large glass aquariums quarantine each patient.
A yellowcoat pup with peach-fuzz fur
forlornly scratches the air, itchy and miserable.
Seal pox is a scourge among marine mammals
as virulent as chicken pox on an grammar-school playground.
The pup is spotted with a rash, and sneezes weakly.
opening his eyes just long enough to blink and notice me,
He delicately waved, clawing at empty space.
It is a benediction.
He knows who I am.
The marine biologists and the veterinarians
are too pragmatic to admit it. It is a coincidence,
that’s all. But I know the truth in the veil of
synchronicity that has followed me since birth.
The seal recognizes me as one of his own.
He remembers my scent, the selkie among the humans.
He arrived thin and battered,
his fur patchy, his stomach empty.
He is fed through a feeding tube, a slurry
of seafood, fish oil, and milk protein.
He sucks and gulps, emaciated and hungry.
Exhausted and feeble, he is lulled
into sleep by a stomach finally full.
Weeks pass as he regains strength.
His fur grows back, sleekened and glossy,
his sores fade as the serum nullifies the virus.
Now plump and energetic, he is deemed rehabilitated,
ready to be released back into the wild.
He nudges the plastic walls of the cat-carrier
with curiosity, exploring its scent and texture.
The transport crate has been upholstered
with sodden towels to keep him cool en route.
Ice cubes shift and clatter against the sides.
He nuzzles the door, his plea unspoken and obvious,
His nose poking charmingly through the grate.
Freed, he worms his way out of the box,
emerging and blinking at the flash of the sun.
He feels the sand under his flippers,
gritty and familiar.
Like a shipwrecked sailor
giddy at feeling land beneath his feet,
he races toward the ocean,
his watery pilgrimage almost complete.
A single image throbs in his mind: Home.
He runs into the arms of Yoruba,
splashing joyfully, water droplets beading
the tips of ears and whiskers.
I watch him go, knowing I cannot follow.
For this lifetime, at least, I am earthbound,
barred from the watery terrain, my true home.
The seal’s head is a brown spot, almost invisible now,
receding with the horizon. I will see him again someday,
when I am released from this physical form, this limping body.
I turn to go, my human footsteps pressed into the sand,
the only evidence of my existence, liminal and transitory.
Jessica Goody was born and raised on Long Island. She currently lives in South Carolina, where she writes for SunSations Magazine. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Reader’s Digest, The Seventh Wave, Event Horizon, Really System, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and The Maine Review. Her poem “Stockings” was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition. Her poetry collection Defense Mechanisms will be released by Phosphene Publishing in January 2017.