Gibby Argues with Mom About Boys,

joe cottonwood

about freedom, about

It’s not like when you were a hippie, Mom.

Mom takes Gibby for a driving lesson.

Both still steaming, Gibby not concentrating

so they stop at Pescadero Beach.

Pacific waves flatten as they lap, foam, cool toes.

Look — a seal! A fat furry sausage

in sunshine, lying sidewise behind boulders.

It must be injured, Gibby says.

A tension of body, quiver of muscle.

In the eyes, a focus of internal force.

She’s in labor, Mom says.

The seal sighs. Her sides bulge, rise,

then nostrils blow little storms of sand.

Not like people, Gibby says.

Huh? Mom asks.

She doesn’t scream in childbirth, Gibby says.

Neither did I, Mom says. In real life

it’s not like the movies.

Gibby nods, chewing a lock of hair.

Neither is sex, Gibby says, for all I know.

Yes! Mom laughs. For all we know.

From outside the circle of rocks they watch.

Gibby records with phone as a seal pup emerges,

squirms randomly until mama spanks with a fin,

guides her pup flopping to a teat.

Gibby whispers Happy birthday little seal.

Then to Mom, sternly: Okay. I’ll drive us home.

And again, as if Mom missed it: Okay.

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Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses as carpenter/contractor in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. Find him at