- Five Poems
the floating body
A body floating on an oily sea:the clearest memory of his brief childhood.
It was not a ship's hullnor part of the forestunloosed by the sea.But the solid matter into which God once blewHis spirit.
She was dressed in gray, like the squall.Crustaceans of a thousand colors crowdedher long hair, and she had the luminous skinof a woman who scrubbed with spices,but was not beautiful at all.
The fishermen's faces grew saltierlike the fish they salted, liquidpoured from their eyes and settledon their cracked lipsrecalling the taste of brine.Their minds clamored for the strengthof Jesus' blood.
A woman's body—that much they knew.The waves pulled her into a dancewith no music.She didn't appear aged,had no identifying marks.One only heard,My God!Over and over again, My God!My God!
A woman's body floatingbut never part of the sea. [End Page 11] They searched for a resemblance,a name, a desire to die.
The admiral's sea gave way to storm.Fish bile covered the sky.Old Marçal dried breamson the bamboo clothesline.A revolution exploded that year, '64.
And my grandfather, by the light of a kerosene lamp,again asking his grandchildrenabout the floating body.It was a story we'd heard a million timesbut still claimed not to know.
And he would tell the same storyhe'd been telling us for agesthat leaves our minds drunk even still.
A woman's body floating on an oily sea.The clearest memory of my grandfather's brief childhood.
At the table, as in a tribunalsubject to our mother's judgment,we bitterly contestedthe best piecesof scrawny chicken.
My younger sisters,each one with her wings,chattered—any tasty piecescatching in their teeth.
The impasse always cameat the thighs.Twofor three admirers.
Only Ideveloped a preferencefor breasts.
Which Freud would attributeto the theory of loss. [End Page 12]
His eyes shipwrecked in the raging sea of his things.Like going to an island and findingonly the bag.Like finding the desperate people's raft.
The fish he brought ashorenow the bluebottle flies' home—spirit escaping through the gills,mirroring the pallor of his face.He was lost.The sea is always an encounter.He knew that.Breaking open, with steady criesunder the dull sky, he sank to the beaten ground.Using the alcoholfrom his favorite perfume, he burnedwhat was a barb in his guts.He was released.The sea is always an encounter.He knew that.Then on he went,wrapped in nets.
no one plants fish in the sea
Cast your net, fisherman.To wrap blue silk around the womanpraying on the wharf.To pay for the children's notebooks.To keep the storeownerfrom turning away.
Sort the fish, fisherman.The smallest one, which will come back big,from the largest that will blackenyour wife's new frying pan.The mesh-chewing crab
from the razor-toothed eel.Freeze in the hold, fisherman,where cold air stiffensyour busy handsand the fish with gleaming,lidless eyes. [End Page 13]
Don't fear the seafloor below your feet—from it sprouts seedsyou did not plant.
Skill will bring your vengeance,justice will come from faith.Watch the clouds propelledby the breath of God.The beaches overrunby no entry signs.The real estate speculatorwith his lizard grin.The dump scavengers huntingaluminum and plastic.The cigarette butts that don't killturtles from edema.All the vanished speciesexpensive oiland easily melting ice.
As if taming a horseby the mane—cast your net, fisherman,it is your fate.
They rise early and watch the seafrom their homes.Breakfast whets their appetitefor staying homeyet they prefer the sea.Their hands are marked by work's escape,the simple breeze: an invitationacross their faces.