Sestina for the Land of Flowers
The Atlantic spits her taste of stolen paradise,
Frothing the beach with seafoam eidolons.
A startled gull blows back, backwards as guilt
And all the palmettos, they are mossed in mourning.
This is the sum of an emptied sun:
Salt in the mouth of a pelican.
Starfaring mother, you juddering pelican!
We are not dead, but stranded. Out beyond paradise,
In a bardo of eyes, we stake malignant claim. The blind sun
Is dumb to our cannibal heritage, but Gaia is heavy with eidolons.
The awful heft of our survival is mourning.
Is it wrong to want some small joy without guilt?
Those little wild oysters are making pearls of our guilt.
Their razor-bristle is navigable only by Pelican.
His people saw the massacre, and in their mourning,
Stretched their mouths to scoop up what was left of paradise.
Right here, two hundred shipwrecked men were slaughtered. Their eidolons
Twist into vengeance: sharp as oysters & relentless as the sun.
No lullaby forged that saint in sun.
Man’s glory ranges eight octaves of guilt,
Heard only by the ears of eidolons –
And me, gulping Florida Mules like a drunken pelican.
I came here expecting paradise.
I got a hangover, a backache, and a lesson in mourning.
They thrust back against mourning
By carrying babies and tradition out into the sun.
Seminole casinos and Kosher delis are lit and alive in pilfered paradise.
Here, as everywhere, atlas trumps psychic in mapping guilt.
Genocide distinguishes man, much as bill shape identifies pelican.
Our family tree is mossed with eidolons.
An eccentric bought a mummified child. The eidolons
of mother and aunt came gratis, yoked to the boy by mourning.
Four to six years old; dead of infection; on display near stuffed pelican –
These slender bones once played under the sun!
I deserve this backache; one look and I share the eccentric’s guilt.
Sweet boy I never met, I pray you are laughing in paradise.
Although bountiful, this is no paradise. Rife with eidolons,
Every blossom is an elegy of guilt and admission of mourning.
The sun rises and sets, not for us, but for the blameless pelican.