Postcard from Rama Cay

On Rama Cay
the breadfruit hangs so low
you can pluck it from the porches
of the hodge-podge houses
planted on their pilings
like egrets wading in the sea,
strung up with lines of laundry
like a loaded Christmas tree.

On Rama Cay
pink-eared conch shells
listen to the children’s laughter
as barefoot and shirtless,
they play with sticks and boats
and bursting cherry bombs,
hurtling down the hill
to the red-roofed church.

On Rama Cay
the men bob up and down in pangas
or sway in hammocks,
lulled by breezes from the bay.
The women tug at buckets
rising from the well
or tend the cattle and the chickens,
the piglets nuzzling the corn.

And stretched out in his hammock,
the pastor looks us over
with his one good eye,
peels an orange with his knife,
and tells the Ramas’ story.
To be sincere with you, he says,
we don’t like work, it’s not our custom.
We live from fish and kindness
from strangers such as you.
I pull a twenty from my billfold
and hugs and handshakes all around,
to the dock we make our way
and wave farewell to Rama Cay.

 

(originally published in a little poetry magazine)

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