Image courtesy of the editors.
On Frederiksted Pier the pelicans
each morning greet me as wings on the waves,
An eye that I thought was watching me
or the fishermen along its stretch
to the Caribbean Sea instead is set upon
diving for fish beneath clear waters
and Crucian hands that pull nets with quiet speed,
turn reels and thread thin fishing wires
of small silver fish, flapping and sharp-shimmering
in the sun like signals from a distant star
communicating the secrets of infinity
within this tiny hour when salt remains
heavy the scent on my body, walking
in rhythm with the soft flaps of water
slapping pillars until I reach the end
of the pier and pause. For only my eyes
can journey any farther and join me
with the space where the sea and sky meet,
before admitting, as time insists, that
I must turn now and adjust my dazzled gaze
back toward island shore to ponder
paradise found and contemplate return
Diego sits on a white paint bucket,
right hand moves his machete in rhythm
with the voice of Felipe Rodriguez
on the radio. “La Voz” he says, as he cuts
out a garden from grass cleared of bush.
A bulbous mound on his face dominates
where years ago a madman crushed his cheek
with a rock. Now Diego’s toothless mouth
dangles a Winston cigarette, eyes in smoke.
Diego trades cigarettes for lobster,
crabs with his friend Cholo. Small and push-pin-faced,
Cholo’s been in the Navy. Smells like beer
when he stops by the house in his dusty truck.
Diego and I passed by Cholo’s house
in Glynn once. My sun-worn face matched my sandals
and dress as I watched his barefoot nephew climb
the roof and pick carambolas for me.
Cholo’s place had fighting roosters in rusty cages.
One was blind. Kept as a pet. But when Cholo
reached into its cage, a flash like orange-feathered
lightning struck him and left an index finger
bleeding. Cholo sprayed the wound with Windex.
Cholo brings by our house some old garden fencing.
“You putting the garden in the wrong place,” Cholo says,
pointing up between two hills near Diego’s seat.
“Rain gonna come right through and ruin it.”
“Nah, nah,” Diego says, his hands to his heart.
“What you mean?” Cholo asks. “It’s gonna come right through here.”
“Nah, nah, Diego says again, lighting a cigarette.
“Just you watch,” Cholo puffs. They switch to Puerto Rican.
Fast, like cocks the rapid speech flies, hands in the air do
the arguing for them. Cholo drives off,
the dust behind his wheels floats a beige veil
between us and the dead mango tree.
Diego shakes his head, looks at me with
his finger to his temple. “Nah, nah, that Cholo,
he don’t know nothin’. He got mosquitos in the brain.”
When the rains come a week later, I watch
Diego from the gallery as he watches from the
pavilion, hands on his skinny hips, cigarette in his mouth.
Standing still, smoking in silence he watches
as flood waters rush through the valley, crash
through his garden and drown his pepper seedlings before
becoming a pool around the white Jeep and old dog houses.
When the rain lets up, I join him down in the pavilion.
His eyes still on the seedlings. They survived.
Satisfied, Diego says, “You see what I mean.
That Cholo. He don’t know nothin’. And now, my dear,
It’s time to make some coffee, watch a little TV.”
And all evening through the windows of
his cottage I can see the flicker of the TV
and hear the Bonanza theme song playing.
The End of the World
“How long has this been going on?” – The woman in my dream demands to know – Night before Thanksgiving 2011 – A short-haired – wiry blonde – Older woman – Alcohol-soaked skin – She wears a large red hat – Wide-brimmed – Tipping over her right eye – The woman is raging – There is something about me struggling to say the word – “We” – in response – The dream ends.
I tell Carlo in the morning – “That’s just like Helen!”- he snaps over the phone – “Where was your wife for Thanksgiving?” – I ask – “With her sister! In Carmel!”
Full moon Dec. 10, 2011 – Countdown – To the grave – Screaming – shrieking – drinking weeping – Refusal – to believe – Refusal – Through his things she went – Weeping – Shrieking – Shredding – Through his pockets she went – Weeping – Raging – She is a hurricane – A hurricane to flood my lungs – I cannot cry out in protest – She is weeping – Weeping – I am weeping – Everyone is weeping – The island is weeping as thousands of Hovensa refinery workers step out of grey-green jumpsuits – pack up and leave – Leave behind a rusting – oily – poisoned – stain on a once – pristine – white beach.
January 2012 – My back hurts so bad I can’t get out of bed – Diego is there to help – but not Carlo – not Carlo – not Carlo – In reality – the Mayans had something much different in mind about when they were talking about the end – of – the – world – It was only the end of mine.
Sydney Solis is a former newspaper reporter whose poetry has been published in The Caribbean Writer, The Squawk Back, and The Shambhala Times. An award-winning performance poet, author, storyteller and visual artist, she has appeared on PBS and in Yoga Journal magazine. A native of Boulder, Colorado she teaches mind-body programs worldwide and at Lighthouse Writers Workshops in Denver. Having previously lived in the U.S.V.I., she now lives in Florida.