There came a day when to hear an airplane,
whether hard-edged drone or high whine,
gave one pause. We never were innocent,
only incurious within our managed lives,
worshipping household gods, lending unawares
our good name to a curse in others’ mouths.
What has befallen us befell the world
a long time ago--long before we forgot
the club, the knife, the whip were ours too,
that the land absorbed blood as readily as rain.
Look at the garden and the order of these flowers:
circle within circle, like a dance or
a beautiful song that catches the breath.
It is mid-afternoon in late summer,
the sky’s high dome of blue almost infinite.
Layers of sound separate out, each
a different register: the wind in the trees,
the cicadas in the grass, the birds calling
and twittering, and the wind chime ringing
pure notes, improvising a melody.
The eyes behold and are held by color--
the red barn, blue door, all the shades of green
and the riot of the garden. Even
the long shadows are clarifying.
Set this world on fire, you will know its worth.
Bequia, the Grenadines
The man on the mast swings in his red cloth chair
working to fix a snag in the mainsail rigging:
the labor of others is more compelling than
our own. The man in the chair raises and lowers
himself as a water taxi skims past in bright
Caribbean colors, with “African Pride” painted
below the gunwales, red on a yellow background,
like a national flag of dispossession.
Despair is the fruit of disparity, and where
it ripens it never falls far from the free.
The sailboat will cruise away leaving money
in its wake. The motorboat circles the harbor,
catching fares and chasing fairness in the guise
of freedom. No nation is an island says
Geo-Politics; no island is a nation
says Multinational Markets. To develop
importance, you import development
but you outsource sovereignty.
The man in the chair
knows the precariousness of in between
but his yacht attests to wealth that’s grounded in
securities. “African Pride” cuts his
engine and glides to the dock, smooth and practiced,
professional. The yachties are set to sail:
the auxiliary engines billow diesel
fumes on the water as the boat finds a way through
the harbor out of the bay to the open sea.
Naked children, blonde and bronzed, with orange floats
on their arms, splash among the waves on the beach.
I am the mask I wear and know as little
about the wearer as the puppet the puppeteer.
The life I live isn’t mine, it lives through me
and I through it dance and strut on my strings
in counterfeit. If you told me about myself
I would not believe you, for how can I be other
than what I have known? When I die, who I am
will step out into the light to try another life,
while I--having passed away--will know all
and nothing. In the dark, I am riddled by doubt.