As in childhood, the gentility of verandas
and gardens, of tea and its trappings, made me
anxious. But it took very little time for someone
to disappear from that world. The cane fields
that separate civility from the rough shoreline
allow anyone, upper crust or field hand, to disappear.
Down one of many dirt rows, the line cut as straight
as the cane planted on either side, one rushes
from the cultured world to an untouched one.
Out of the cane fields, out from their wind-rippled leaves
shepherding you onward, one finds the sand
and sea awaiting as if discarded by a retired god.
The setting sun’s red and orange fingers tried,
unsuccessfully, to reconfigure the seven shades
the water’s varying depths reflected, but all
that changed was the sea foam once white now pink.
The English painter, who visited here once, wrote
that the daily gaudiness of this sight made one
long for the nuance of dimming light at dusk
as it smudged its charcoal over a Hampshire field.
All I can say is it takes a certain temperament
to prefer a sunset in Hampshire to a sunset
in the Caribbean. I do not have such a temperament.
I prefer a scene that requires oils instead of charcoal.
The shore empty, the sun no longer visible,
the water’s colors finally succumbed and darkened
to night, the same as that settling over us from above.
Not the sunset, but the time following sunset:
the day’s Technicolor displays erased. Alone
on the soft sand, the surf mumbled the old language.
Like my great-great-grandmother who visits me
in dreams, it said: Salt or no salt, trust no one.
It is difficult for one like me to disregard the sea
and the cane fields. I am perfectly aware this place
is no longer my home, but the sea says Truth is truth,
and the cane field says Like the machete, you belong to me.
Copyright © 2021 C. Dale Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.