A Lion in the Sea Is not a Sea Lion

Michael Naghten Shanks

Trips to zoos are always best made in autumn.
Dressed in a yellow duffle coat and brown brogues,

both vintage, she is wilfully in season in every sense.

In the indoor aviary I squeeze her hand while parading

past another couple. The untimely mating call of
an unseen bird echoes around the azure walls.

Later, under unforeseen cloudless skies, we escape
the midday sun’s harsh light, descending down steps

into a concrete cave; a glass-wall window presenting us
with the chance to see the murky water depths

in which the two sea lions would normally swim.
We emerge to find them stretched atop a rock,

awaiting tourists’ cameras like hosts

embracing guests at an important dinner party.