I wrote the first poem for Sanibel Island, Fla., where I go for a month every summer to fish and eat Doc Ford’s Yucatan Shrimp. It’s what I live for.
Grazing the Gopher Tortoise
Sanibel Island, Florida
Death is the mother of beauty.
There's wind in our hair
And there's water in our shoes
Honey, it's been a lovely cruise
For some reason, maybe deep
in my DNA, when my allotted time
has run out, I’m always ready
to go, never sorry to be leaving,
the fishing only so-so, though
there was that big something,
as I stood beer-belly deep
in the warm lapping Gulf,
that took me all the way to the fence,
and all I could do was stand and watch
my spool unspool to the inevitable snap
of the fisherman’s Chinese special,
I’ll wonder now forever what it was,
what small line of me might finally
see Cuba. Maybe the heir of something
Hemingway almost caught: “I’m sorry
I lost him, but I’m glad he got away.”
So if I’m going back north tomorrow,
let’s get it over with—I’ll never
live on this millionaires’ island,
so protected and Edenic even
the mosquitoes and rats are catch-
and-release, the morning armadillos
ambling around like they own the place,
and the local café advertising for volunteers
to graze Gopher Tortoises.
But maybe that could have been
the very thing I was born to do,
and I imagine this other life
of lassos, the yearly drive
to the railhead in Orlando,
my big Galapagos galloping
to round up the Gophers for as long
as I’m allowed to be alive.
You’d think the way we bitch and moan
that, just to cook a meal, my wife
has to lug last night’s dishes
to the river and scrub them with sand,
and that I have to stalk and stab
the steak myself, carry the water
to sluice the lettuce in a jug
on my head from a well
two miles away, milk
the goat and churn the butter
for the spud charring in the stickfire,
wine grapes finishing their ferment
in the washtub,
before we sit down on the buffalo robe
in the cave, dig in,
and refuse to say grace.
The first for breath, of course,
then the next for breast, soon
and often. Others
follow hard upon:
attention, amusement, rage,
and their shadows,
neglect, boredom, pain.
The one she’ll always have?
injustice, and its intimate,
Later, teenage misunderstanding,
later, love won,
but mostly lost.
Marriage, mothers weeping.
Childbirth, full circle.
The Golden Years:
but I won’t be there to hear
though I’ll cry once again
wherever I am.
©2016 William Greenway
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