May 7th, 2013



She is in England, and I am in Africa,
Yanks—yanked out of water, immersed
in warmth, immersed in cold, our love
taking the shape of the shore we meet.

Between us, ten thousand tiny filaments
silver-sparkling, flying fish swimming under water
holding each other’s breath. We sit at our pages and bleed.
Buccaneer pens razor-sharp, we slash the legend of our voyage
on our lovers’ hearts. Our boldness looks like bravery.
To our guides, our hosts (in-laws!) we are neither fish
nor fowl, yet winged, yet flashing, yet flopping airless on the deck.

Strange constellations—stars and shadows can’t be seen by,
we light a candle. We are the candle
spreading light, the mirror that reflects each passing moment.
The food we cannot get. This hat—that word—that gesture’s wrong.
Our ties severed with the sharp edge of a one-way ticket,
we do ‘the washing-up.’ We marvel:
tiny appliances, fresh bread, brown eggs
kept on the counter. The bright flash
of foreign racism. How looking on is stepping back,
accepting fate without a shot—no revolutionaries we,
daring only to be happy.

Her phone rings—it isn’t me. And yet
the voice that says, the dread is coming,
her voice that questions, are you safe?
It is I who asks her, help me. It is she who answers, yes.

With affection for, and apologies to, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Mark Twain and Edith Wharton.