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