The Seabird Hymn

I sit again, not before some gracious scene
(breath heaving a certain wonder, slow
as day-laborers at evening, sweetened
cane stalks stretching burgundy for decades
across their backs, entrancing me
to paint with cursive mark)
but here: La Basse.

Even sandflies know to avoid places
where people dump their garbage.
And their dead.
But this place is mine, yours. Take it.

The horizon is overpopulated
with sails that have all left me on the shore
to mind the sand, to sink into my footprints.
And muse.

Fish-hunters thread their nets and fashion
stories into myth behind me.
The deposed pagan catch might show homage
and finally speak, thin-lipped,
a land-borne patois.

And thank them for being drawn,
surrendering, from crude intimations
of immortality. And love them, smiling.
For savage progress, like love of country,
is learned from sea birds,
working against the sky, stitching
cloud to fragment of cloud.

Aged new moon veiled in darkening
white like the pale Syrian child at first
communion, hemmed, in her mother’s dress,
for the morsel that was a lingering faith.
Take it, like bread.

Give us a ration of centuries
and we will eat anything, and
be miserly with our nationalism,
fledglings’ mouths, gaping for something
that could be legend. A song that might be.
A hymn of sea birds. Epic.

A story: of how the fish flew, possessed,
to unbind the souls that curse the sea
with writhing.

Of how Aruac died without benefit of prayer, dried
vertebral islands bending beneath the dead
weight of this beheaded rock who knows
the funeral-pyre flames do lap the godless sky,
this gourd had once known rain,
begs now, dead, for it.

Of how some of us came,
tattooed on the land,
as if cascadoo had swum with us
in womb, indelibly born, to know the grave
and take it, scaled and gutted, smiling.

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