Mayaro, 1986

Aging bonfire past its prime grips
the sky’s disheveled hem, desperate—
mounds of burning cotton, saffron
flames dropping embers on the sea, reaching in
for miles overhead.

And silhouette bathers stain
the water’s edge like an oil spill, or the flotsam
at Mayaro, where palms are unlit torches
bored since oil lamps and street lights,

I had walked for years along the bared
teeth of the Atlantic and, once, sat to look.
To understand the fury
of the breaching sea bird.

Suffering cannot be measured
with astrolabe and compass, but standing
here thumbing the remains of skin that keep me
from falling, bones and all, to the earth,
the force is clear as wind

unfurling the Hindu standards that snap
rain-soaked on their golden bamboo poles.
I wash my face there—wrinkled mud banks of rivers shine;
poetry crawls through the mangrove of the brain,
punctual as the leatherback.

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