Varadero

The morning rises with a tide in flood,
a swelling warmth of swallowed salt
that lifts my body off its feet
then muscles up and through the chest
as it overpowers a racing mind with calm –
or the tastes of sweetened rum and the delights

of islands that once dreamt a feathered man,
imagined in the humid light, a force of colour
radiant in palm-carved air, hanging….
but vibrant with a pregnant pungent life
which if inhaled infects the heart and fills me
with uneasy sweeping dreamy peace.  Peace

that may forget the old molasses and mosquitoes
of a Caribbean twice a sentence, twice a grave:
a candied killer and attractor, destroyer of the men
who made sugar for the craving and reward
that brought wealth beyond their avarice for the few
and a fevered anguished aguey death for many;

islands liberated but still branded by the stain of slavery,
when one was damned and ten, a hundred men were owned
to make an ancient sin industrial:  the power
and the desire to erase those people’s names
and chain their children to that rotten block –
the foundation stone of empires, the anchor of our trade.

a phrase

a phrase I read, an academic note –
‘absent from the historical record’ – sparked
a resonance:
of ordinary life, and death,
of passing and forgetting
and the eventual futility of knowing,
except to pass it on;

and, while knowing that it’s merely true,
a reaction to the vacuum it implies –
of recognition:
that life is in the moment,
not a mark of failure or despair;
and a claim:
to simple complex joy that rises,
floods, conjoins, moves on.