When we sail together

by Cornelia Rohde

we ride the broad back of the sea
hearing wind songs
breathe.

The water runs at us,
leaps,
throws itself lightly in air:

cold white spray
dancing joyfully by itself.
We laugh into each other’s eyes.

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Rescue

by Cornelia Rohde

At full moon’s morning tide
we swim across the flats
above baby conch
settled in soft turtle grass.
At each receding ebb
their pink-shell lips gape,
vulnerable to greedy scavengers.
You rescue them in weighty bucket-loads,
stagger through the shallows
to hurl them into channel’s depths
where they can safely fatten.

I imagine shiny shell faces
beaming with relief.

Yellow Snake Spirit

by Cornelia Rohde

“He is upon the Wheel as we are—a life ascending or descending—very far from deliverance. Great evil must the soul have done that is cast into this shape,” said the Lama to Kim.
Rudyard Kipling, Kim
 

No meat on him, nor in his mouth.
Skin leather-tough, scaly as a turtle.
On his head an old palm hat
Miss Ilma’d plaited out of pity.

No wife nor kin to share
his crooked clapboard house:
privy out back, no pump,
dirt floors and vermin.

His neighbors pinch their noses.
Kids taunt him. His harsh curses
send them scattering. They call
him a curmudgeon, or call him worse.

His watermelons ripen
on his Crown Land plot.
He piles his skiff with weighty fruit,
rows back across the channel.

Makes fast his line; readies to hurl.
One by one, heads smash on the dock
in shattered bleeding shards.
That un’s Ole Pot, that un’s Crazy Boy, that un’s Jack.

The church takes his land for a parking lot.
He hides in the bush in a makeshift hut.
His slingshot drops a bird to eat.
But that bud is a yellow snake.

De bud is a speerit.
De bud sings,
Go carry me home.
So he takes him out.

Go an’ make up yer fire.
Come an’ cook me now.
He done eat. One bone lef.
Go lay on yer mat.

When they come, he is
stiff as a mast, down and dead.
They find a yellow snake
coiled under his bed.

 

Island Inbreeding

by Cornelia Rohde

…the lilies were standing
on their calm, cob feet,
each in the case
of a single, waxy body
…and I swear I pitied them, as I looked down
into the theater of their perfect faces—
that frozen, bottomless glare.

“The Snow Cricket”, Mary Oliver

He lives alone,
face shut tight as his
simple wooden house
built two hundred years ago,
time enough
for cousins to marry cousins
in this far off fishing village.

Handhewn shutters propped by sticks,
windows cracked open in the heat–
he can’t look out;
no one glances in.
It must be dark inside.
Three clumps of pink lilies
nod in the yard his mother planted
when she was alive.
A single chair on the
the bare porch
holds unhusked coconuts,
left there by giving neighbors.
Over time the pile diminishes
and is replaced.

Once I saw him in the water at high tide
across from the old graveyard.
His lumpy grey swim trunks
dried on his wash line.
Some days he goes walking,
stiff and hatless,
thin hair trim, blue shirt clean,
eyes vacant,
looking at nothing,
simply moving down the road
toward a place he does not see.

Cravings

by Cornelia Rohde

In the moons of crayfish season,
when the smack boats trawl the
Grand Bahama Bank,
the island women shut their
doors and windows, and grow
desperately close to Mr. Clean:
cling to Pinesol, squeeze the Lysol,
Mop and Glo linoleum,
gush Windex, stroke surfaces
with paper towels in fathoms,
scour walls, ceilings, and
their teeth,
mist Febreeze into moaning wind.
The only Tide they notice makes
suds rise in the washer.

After sand is swept from
every crack and corner,
every toenail trimmed and polished,
every kid slapped twenty times,
Mona’s reputation ruined,
and Norma down with vapours,
at last—
the fishermen ease up the creek,
holds filled with tender tails.
Their eyes fish for their women
on the dock,
aching
to drift through violet twilight water,
in the lazy flip flop of the sea,
slip barefoot into sunup,
hips rolling silky swells, content
to loll at anchor,
while sea breezes freshen up their houses.