The Man-Seal

by Lori Schainuck Issue: Fall 2015
A crescent-shaped thing sat in a tree. The man asked, is it a flying saucer?
In the crisscross of a high branch: a bird’s nest.
It resembled honey strings the bees might have whipped up.
Or burnt pastry. And what would that be doing in a tree?
                The man held a forlorn eggshell—
                the thing pulsed between his fingers.

He surmised a thing is only what we assign it, our transcendence
only a moonbeam, counter-wise
he concluded he was a seal. His body shape shifted. Flesh melted.
He touched his hair. Only whiskers. Feet: flippers. Skin: a waxy
blubber. Day stormed into dusk. The sky: a big eggplant.
           Seals don’t eat
           eggplant, he thought. Then: thunder, thunder—poof!

The green-leafed trees now coated in whiteness. The houses vanished.
Cars lifted. Attached themselves to the mighty magnet-clouds.
He leaped into the full void of moisture
           as if he dived into a melted ice cube.
           Ice sheets, a glacier of blueness—

a man inside a seal’s body in a Nordic country.
Other seals welcomed him. He mated, made man-and-woman seals,
in winter he ate fish, in springtime wildflowers and berries.
One day he longed for his wife’s homemade coleslaw,
           his newborn’s little piano-key toes—
           whistle of jays in the old oaks.

The man-seal (still vested with reason) thought animals were lower beasts.
He glanced into the bounded oblivion. Can a seal talk to God?
The night sky is a shadow box, he reckoned. He tapped on its hinge.
           It opened, a fireball beamed. Like a supernova
           he whirled back into the quiet wilderness of his former life.

Lori Schainuck lives and writes in Miami, Florida. This is her first publication.