The Grammar of Paradise
In Tortola, when you go, they bury you
under a white concrete slab which,
for good measure, they top off with
two or three more slabs,
smaller but equally white:
an oblong ziggurat, topped
with a cross. Your visitors can sit
on you or one of your neighbors
and lunch on a roti or sandwich as they
remember and discuss you
and then move on to other topics,
looking across to low houses
and shops, their doors, roofs,
and window shutters in
gleeful toybox colors and
overhead, coconut palms and
the magenta blooms of bougainvillea.
The sun smiles down, as it does
most of the time. The sea surrounds
and laps at the rocks like a lover
at your feet. Slowly the sun shifts.
Slowly the sidereal nighttime sky rolls around,
the moon, planets, constellations.
Boats sway on their moorings.
Americans dream in their moving berths.
Back home, for weeks in the future, they will rock
in their timeless dreams, their beds afloat
on lapis and turquoise inside
their quiet-colored northern houses.
But if, as I say, you have come to rest
in the glowing blue and green of the islands,
your swaying and rocking time is over.
And it seems nobody has anything but time here
where, all day, roosters step down the road
and crow in the knowledge of announcing God.
Nancy Keating‘s poems have been published by New Letters, The Gettysburg Review, Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Stony Brook University (2019) and teaches at Farmingdale State College when she is not knitting.