It’s been three days now. We continue to find
splinters of rice clinging to our scalps; piercing
no skin but adamant, predatory at the root.
They will not be removed. Thinking back to the Mass
we recall the smallest things—yellow neckties
splashed with ciliated paisley, old silk dresses with
piscine flares, and one thin strand of cultured pearls.
Transplanted to the haunting, siren surge of Garrafon
Beach, our feet sink fast in earth and we
allow ourselves a moment’s burial
in this benevolent grave of wet sand.
Our guide Frederico insists we call him Freddy.
(Must acquaintance require always the abridgment
of the formal?)
Aiming for the reef we forget
our fins. Soles get cut on
coral, bleeding bold red into
the surf. Freddy tells us
it’s worth it beyond. He is right.
The Daliesque choreography of life here! A
mixed pavane of wrasse, grunt, and goby maneuvers
beside us, plucking late lunch from pockets of stone.
Layers of plankton cover layers of bone that cover layers
of ancient rock. Algae drifts above, hogging the sun,
lacking decent radix, its slippery patches an unsophisticated
green. But anything green is, at least, alive.
A piqued queen angelfish—“Isabelita”—watches from the darkness.
Brilliant among the blue-dappled sea whips, her wary gaze nails
us. The eyes are the same as my mother’s. Remember?
Our last dance before leaving. Those eyes—
pleased that we came to realize this paradise,
but more than half betrayed
by the slow disruption of home.
—Lori Brannigan Kelly