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Little Rebel at White’s Island

At night the moonlight masked the hedges
On Tucker’s Hill, a private thrill to walk
From our Victorian home to White’s Island.
I’d cross the causeway, both footbridges,
Historic railroad tracks and inhale a secret air
That only I felt could fill my strange, weak lungs
Without a jerk of hyperventilation, my Ondine’s curse.

As if I’d held my breath the swift sprint to the island,
I caught the scents of saltgrass, the mudflats and lush
Odors of the Sheepscot River and damp trees, all seven
That grew in a circle, leaning like a coven of witches.
I stood by their cauldron, a natural cavity in the earth,
Brimming and brewing some magical potion that might
Transform my old soul pre-teen self into maturity.

Poems, not spells, I cast into the water. Smooth stones, not sorcery,
Slid back and forth in my hands. I traded love letters with a boy,
Who stole down to the island to smoke cloves by the stone wall;
Cracks in the mortar of the old bathhouse facilitated delivery.
Flats crackled as the tides shifted; its ebb awakened the eel grass
And all its inhabitants in the water bed.

I played a daring barefoot game along a line of rocks, jagged
And round on the less-popular side, a pebbled beach strewn
With sea glass, not always “ready” (I returned the sharp pieces)
Broken bits of brick, cast-offs from the mason station, dead crabs.

Gramma called the big slate boulder, “Leah’s rock,”
I liked to sit there dripping in my wet bathing suit,
Let my long hair dry in the sun. Salt flaked on my skin
In glistening specks; the white of the salt clung to my ankles
Invisible socks (when I wouldn’t wear my jellies).
Water marks rimmed the rock’s edge in uneven, parallel
Stripes; they measured the tides like waistlines
On a full-figured woman. At high tide, I perched
Curved-postured, as if to dive, and dipped my fins
Into cold dark green saltwater up to my shins.

Those summer nights when I snuck down to the island
In my ripped-seated jeans and tennis sneakers,
Sitting on the rock, my little rebellion.

(a work in progress)                     ~Leah TP Subscribe

Thirty to forty foot swells – a scene out of the Sebastian Junger book, The Perfect Storm, was the start to my “relaxing” vacation on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. My friend, Sarah, and I boarded Speedy’s ferry, the Fantasy, our stomachs full of conch & mahi mahi and rum punch topped with fresh nutmeg, which we’d savored at the Petite Pump Restaurant after arriving on St. Thomas. Sitting atop the ferry on metal benches, I started taking pictures of the beautiful landscape: turquoise water in the harbor, a crumbling castle held up with scaffolding, houses painted in pastel pinks, corals, aqua and lime. Part-way into the two hour ferry ride, the sea got rough and waves washed over the bow of the boat, sending spray in powerful showers that smacked us across our faces, our laps, soaking our clothes in seconds. A man tied a windbreaker around his pregnant wife’s neck to cover her head so she could breathe; the rest of us held on for dear life and rode what felt like an amusement park ride gone terribly awry—and lasted over an hour. My sunglasses kept my contacts from falling out but beat a bruise across my nose. I cried hysterically in between waves while my friend choked and spit up sea water. I heard people swear and pray in the same breath, myself included. Then we arrived on Virgin Gorda and went through customs, standing awkwardly, dripping wet and shaking with nerves. The rest of our five night stay was full of thrills: we drove a jeep over a volcano dressed to the nines to go to a marina-restaurant, the sort of place where Morgan Freeman sometimes moors his sailboat; snorkeled in a choppy Savannah Bay, despite rumors of a bull shark—where my friend, Harmony, got tossed into fire coral by a rogue wave; and explored the incredible caves at the Baths with 3,000 tourists off of a cruise ship (our bad timing). Occasionally I found myself riding in the jeep wearing my dive mask with the prescription lens so I could see on the way to the bays for snorkeling. No sign of the Virgin Island tree boa or lizard that does push-ups but we saw dozens of gekos and iguanas, whose tails slashed through the undergrowth as we hiked along trails. Each night I showered outside our villa under a full moon in a swirl of warm sea breeze and magenta bougainvillea. I will have to go back to hike Gorda Peak, see the copper mine and ruins, snorkel Mount Trunk Bay, and take a boat over to Anegada, the so-called drowned island, which is a nature preserve. I’d go back in a heartbeat, with cameras packed in dry-bags.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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