Monday, July 13, 2009

The Island

I. The Resort

A few miles to the North, smoke plumes
drift over the sea, white warnings
of hidden fires raging in the trees.
A morning pall of ash remains,
of forest flames quenched by night-time rains,
sprinkled on the bedroom awnings.

The resort squats self-consciously,
a glass and steel tortoise in the trees.
In the lobby, new arrivals
accumulate and sip Chablis;
they listen to the hotel rules,
no booze or horseplay in the pools.

Bare feet, thongs and shoes pound pine boards:
checking in and out the motley hordes
disperse with electronic keys and
beach towels, walking in twos or threes
they wander through the scrub and sand
to find their rooms among the trees.

The sunlight glitters on the wires
strung between the parabolic beams;
breakfast birds dive down and flutter.
Ignoring screams, the skilful fliers
snatch crumbs of toast and butter,
in a palace of avian dreams.

Humbert, slumped in a wicker chair,
masks a classifying stare,
over the morning paper clocks,
two young princesses in coloured socks.
He leaves to undress by the pool,
hopes their mother didn't see him drool.

Along the boardwalk a black snake
lies baking in the morning sun,
feels the pulse of running feet,
turns back to beat a wise retreat.
The girls in costumes, looking cool,
run quickly to the swimming pool.

The boards rumble to a heavier tread,
dismayed, Humbert ducks his head,
as mother bulges out in red;
a splash signals her immersion,
drenching voyeur from toe to head;
he leaves, to seek a new diversion.

II. The Lake

The trippers have left their traces
lingering on the shining sands:
indentations, heel and toe,
soon massaged to oblivion
by the breeze of afternoon.
Dust devils begin their dance and go
round discarded butts and cans,
waltzing through the trees then
sifting through the litter down below.

The lake lies half in shadow,
cast by the torrid sun at trine,
angling over the cliff of sand
that plunges to the waterline.
Turquoise and green the waters shine
along the shallows of the beach,
but deep beneath the shadows
lurk realms of brackish hollows
where the light can never reach.

Deep and cold the water lies,
pressing on a bed of ancient leaves,
first fallen when the rise of man
was but a stagger from the trees.
Countless logs lie bedded down,
where pale eyes glimmer, floating
in murky depths of black and brown,
waiting for a lonely swimmer
to succumb to fear and drown.

To be alone in such a place,
the sun gliding towards the sea,
is to know the mystery
of a cobalt sky revolving
in the forest's watery eye,
disconnected from all trace
of human purpose, dissolving
in the microcosmic chatter
of teeming life among the trees.

Time ceases then, and fails to flow:
the pool, ominous and enticing,
sings with promise of cool delight.
With burning feet upon the sand,
a tardy bather slips from sight,
into the shelving pit below;
floats briefly in the blazing light
then drifts into a land of shadows.
A bird calls out as Humbert wallows.

III. The Beach

The hand of evening lies upon the sands,
grey ash drifts into the dingo's eyes,
where reflect blood-orange skies and
birds speckled in migrating bands.
Slow life from the bushes creeps
and signifies where danger sleeps.

Delicate but invisible hands
lie under a knotted epigram,
scribbled in the briny sands.
The dingo trots round rotted logs,
leaving messages for his dam
or other learned yellow dogs.

Listlessly the ocean swishes
and wishes for an evening wind,
to enliven its eternal song.
A broken thong, an orange rind,
odds and ends of every kind
bathe with crabs and mangrove pods.

Silhouetted in the lurid glow
beer drinkers squat incarnadined,
lovers stalk their lilac shadows
flowing among the toppled gums.
The sun falls behind the jetty
as the evening ferry comes.

Like chatter from a xylophone,
the luggage buses clatter
on the weathered jetty boards,
A single note on klaxophone
commands the Dis-enchanted hordes
to board the final ferryboat.

Tony Thomas
January 2006

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