Carefree in leisure time, one blasé tourist,
almost happy, I once had collected a complicated stone;
after the sunny hours had ended and last opportunity
for keepsakes began.
In my hand the stone had kept all of its mouths sewn shut,
holding its amalgamated story, and likewise in the car,
on the plane, through US Customs where it was not
in the least suspected.
A thumbnail identity I now should guess at, marking an old date,
and fixing it to, with reasonable estimate, a map location:
Plot No. 243, East end of the island, slave sugar plantation,
the stone from the corner of a ruined windmill stair—
broken free by my criminal hand, having liberated a vine.
The stone looked like a bleached out mini-monolith, square-rectangular,
able to be stood on end, leaning back and swollen at its center
like a pulled cork.
What could have moved this sequestered world to opening?
That was not for me to discover, except what came on Christmas Day,
two days after my returning.
Slave watercourses, the sight of innumerable Dutch ships,
ballasted with human flesh and hewn rock for sugar works buildings.
The drop at arms swish of the Driver’s bullwhip.
Flecks of spirit splayed on vegetation.
A mongrel dog barked beyond the windless wall of sugarcane
in centipede and mosquito heat.
Seaside, beautiful seaside impressions;
distant coral light shadows, etched deep azure;
snowy colored breakers that pencil-marked the sea.
The staid, vibrant, mocking power
of visual symphony backdrop.
So little of aid for the slaves, but for those dangerous secrets,
unhoused in the fallen coolness of the night:
demonstratively crystalline heaven of stars;
a ragged moon, clouds scudding eastward toward Africa
before freshwater rainsqualls came. And there
Orion’s Belt, mid-sky, illustrious bright, with its three
centering star points in rational line, as if
Hope could have flung such a rope anchor onto Life
engendering sanctified resistance.
Christmas morning, 5 a.m.
I had awakened from a stuck place, shapeless and dark,
half in dreaming and half in knowing I was in no dream.
I was sobbing, yet strangely, because there were no tears.
I had only put the stone inside my pajama top onto my heart.