Jerome L. McElroy
Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame IN
Copyright © 2001 by Jerome L. McElroy, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
on the topmost limb
wings askew for ballast
the bearded crow
stares down the gorge
and slowly up the cliff
then sideways back again
puzzled whether he
has steam enough to glide
the sky to paradise
before daylight's done
when clouds eclipse
the highway home,
for the wind to shift,
caught at mid-life.
Below the ocean ledge
skipjack smoothly pulse
each time sunlight pierces
through patchy cloud debris.
While silver mullet shimmer
a dozen yellowtail slowly
sink toward bottom sand
like a brace of diamond flakes
intact. Tidal rhythms rock sea fans
opening bohemian neighborhoods
of chameleon pipes and blowfish
and one-eyed flounders wavering
in mid-air undisturbed.
A monstrous ray from nowhere
glides the reef to shake
his sabre just for exercise.
Then the stationary barracuda
explodes a school of passing sprat
so fast he's still standing still.
His jaws break the spell and end
the drama without surface traces.
The black veined hands
of the old Trinidadian
glowing sunrise indigo
mapped the sea lanes
to Tortuga Bank and back
against the breeze.
As his fingers kneaded nets
he whispered to the surf --
hope is easy on the eyes at dawn
but heavy on the neck at noon.
The reef lies forty fathoms deep
between one's must and want.
It's a bloody lonesome tack
should the trade winds shut.
Daylight drags when love's lost
like an anchor in the sand.
No music breaks the doldrum sky
like the fish hawk's sultry cry.
You can only sail up heaven
what you give away.
Then like a discus throw
he sprayed a figure eight in air.
The arc of his cast
woke up the lagoon
and signaled that the universe
would spin another day.
The only three-point shooter in Belize,
Kaldo trashed opponents' zones and
reconfigured blackboards in the jungle.
The finesse of his ambidextrous wrists
was celebrated as colonial treasure.
His feats from half-court at the buzzer
echoed through the backyard hinterlands.
Townfolk called him "Twash Mon,"
"Twash Ballito" for aspirants decades after.
The arc of his aerial defined their horizon.
Kaldo was remarkable in other ways.
Launching radar rockets from the sidelines,
he had to be coaxed to try for the tearm.
Although he ripped the nets in practice
he craved a sign from me to let go in games.
From Panama to Mexico, he didn't disappoint
bombing the goliaths with aplomb.
He made his statements on the court
rarely in the classroom, but I felt
his wounded eyes always in my throat.
When I broke the news of his probation
his lips limped how uneven orphans ripen.
The solitary sentinel
scouring the sky for light
broods inside the daybeak breeze.
Then his right wing sinks
when the fish hawk falls
sweeping like a saber slice
until the sea explodes
a wounded sturgeon
in his clutch
bloodied by the reef
up the stairs to heaven.
Fastened to the daring arc
my eyes hurl high
off the rim of earth at him
rebounding rainbows down
brackish on my lashes.
The coco grove's erratic rattle
signals why the evening tide
brimmed with early whitecaps
is bathing coastal regulars
far above the waistline
splashing worn volcanic faces
with wake-up after-spray.
The pulsing of the strafing surf
all along the curved beach rind
pushes sea-grape bangs awry
but cannot crowd the coqui's throat.
A serpentine train of rain
advancing from the east
scars the sky and scares
a bevy of bananaquits
bouncing leeward on electric air.
A phalanx of friendly crabs
sand-blasted by the gale
breaks loose in retreat, tumbling
upwards toward the tufted ridge.
The menacing lagoon's so smoky
silverside fingerlings look limbo lost.
Trouble is afoot tonight
but my feet won't leave the shore.
Back to Table of Contents 5.2