(The 2015 Poetry Friday Progressive Poem)
She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows, snows in wild wind
as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones,
and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide…splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory;
“Born from the oyster, expect the pearl.
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.”
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
Green pirogue, crawfish trap,
startled fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away,
leaving him only a handful of memories of his own grandmother’s counsel:
“Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to
Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.”
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit
and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes – Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of…water!
Released, he swims, chasing the glimmer of the bracelet
Gran gave the daughter who reveled in waves.
Straining for fading incandescence, flecks of silver,
his eyes and hands clasp cold silt,
flakes of sharp shale seething through fingers – crimson palms stinging.
A sea change ripples his shuddering back.
With a force summoned from the depths, her charged turquoise eyes unsuffer his heart
And holding out her hand to him, she knows. He knows. She speaks,
as his hand curls ’round her bracelet-clad wrist,
“Papa, just a little longer in the pool! One more time down the slide! Please!”
He nods; she won’t be his little mermaid much longer.
It's hard to explain how much fun it was to work on that poem! Can't wait till next year!
3 hours ago