Five Thousand Miles

Five Thousand Miles

When we arrived your welcome was as warm
as sunlight slanting through the spicy air.
To my child’s eyes, all was strange and new,
this lush green island in a Lalique sea,
mountains circling swaying cane fields, rocks
as old as time, bright coral sand, white,

gritty under foot, hard on my soft white
skin, seaweed trailing tendrils in water warm
and salty as my tears for a knee grazed on rocks.
After garish sunset, I was scared by night air
singing through filao trees edging the sea,
whistle moaning their mournful song so new,

so strange to me, and yet somehow I knew
I was safe. Your plump laugh, soft hands, white
sari were always there beside that tropical sea.
Those singing trees, those brown arms so warm
are gone, five thousand miles of land, sea, air
now lie between me and those black volcanic rocks.

Now my island is one of pink granite rocks
prisoned by grey-green sea, its smooth sand new,
washed clean and fresh in crisp, cold air.
Wind bent grass clings to cliffs, waves edged white
rumble angry in winter storms and I, wrapped warm
against the weather, gaze out at this northern sea,

so much colder, darker than the turquoise sea
of my childhood. Here the tumbled granite rocks
wait through the long winter to be briefly warm
in lemon sun. Years pass, all is no longer new.
Long ago I lost that sun-drenched tan, skin now white
with the chill of brisk, cold British air,

for years, I’ve only dreamt of the hot spiced air
of that far off land, dreamt of that mirror sea,
glass clear through to coral branches, white
and pink, nestling beside blue-black rocks.
South or north, neither island now, to me, is new,
one is cold, controlled, adult, one childhood warm.

But as I stand, air whistling past granite rocks
by cold grey sea, I know I, no longer young or new,
will feel again on my white skin your welcome so warm.

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