Issue 108, Fall 1988
It was premonitions that kept us restless
the night before, visions of a gemlike lagoon
we’d push off into, the slim canoe
quivering like a magnetic needle through
narrow reefs of sedges. It was enough
to keep us fired: paddling away from
camp on marshland towards a lion’s mouth of river.
At night mosquitoes, parading high-toned
outside the net, kept us captives.
Fireflies winked about the radius of our tent.
Weakened by island heat to visceral fatigue,
we slept inert as prisms in the dark night.
Tide was in when we waded into the idle current.
In a scorpion’s spinal curve, it would tow us miles
into the ocean’s briny green-white surf.
A dozen thirsty frogs watched beneath the oozy rim.
It seemed we could have been barbarians
plundering their defenseless world.
One foot on board, set to kick off our
bright aluminum canoe, for a split second,
I caught sight of the lagoon’s woolly undercarpet
of iridescent algae. A small green ball blossomed
into a giant feeding anemone, a family
of centimeter snails nibbling its tentacle tips.
All sorts of plankton wafted about
in a rich paisley of debris that must have been home.
They were a rainbow of sea-travellers:
helmeted red abalones, feather boas
and a lazy hermit crab sailing on a starfish.
They metamorphosed before my eyes, and quickly
as it rose, their colony blurred
beneath a wavy thicket of surfgrass.
The virgin wilderness,
its isometric shores
passing alongside us,
absorbs its conquerors