TWO POEMS

VIRGINIA MCLURE

OUR STORY OF TOBAGO

If our hips touch somewhere there is a red stove-plate, a pot of water boiling in the kitchen. Green plantains and ginger on top of the fridge. Hiking to Speyville, it is as if we have discovered a beautiful, uninhabited island. We eat breadfruit on the roadside, all overripe. Finger-sized green bananas, dry flour taste. We spit both out on the road.

We arrive and find our guide. He looks different than us. When he gives us sunscreen, we worry we will have to pay for it. He shows us his backyard, roosters, limes, a coconut tree, dasheen, aloe like spiked tails. One, I can sell for $50, he says. We ride in a blue-painted boat to the island of birds.

His pink soles curl over crumbling stone steps, fallen bamboo. We place our tender footpads around sharp rocks. He slows for us, uncovers bird nests for pictures, winds us down the rock-cliffs to watch the frigatebirds swoop to take the prey of others. A frigatebird lives by the sea but can’t get its wings wet, or it sinks.

We love how bright the sea is, how everything grows. People from your lego-city, our guide says, think they know what goes on because they read books. But it’s not a library, it’s a lie-brary. We wish we didn’t have to feel on our guard, could dissolve into this new place. Later we will repeat everything, in the safety of our rental, and laugh softly. This is the kind of memory we have come here to make.

Back on the beach I find a young coconut. Our guide speaks into a nearby window, takes an offered machete, slices off the top. As I tilt it back to drink, juice spills over my chest. I sigh deeply. He tells me, he can cut more if I want. We have to get back, you say. It’s six already. No lights along the blacktop back to our rental.

Green mangos above the sink. Cacao fruit we picked in somebody’s backyard. Our flight is tomorrow; we throw both away. We were cheated on our taxi from the airport, the owner of the second village restaurant says. His son will drive us on the winding road to Scarborough. Watching the blooming coastline go by makes us both ill— craggy inlets, the stern-faced children in starched jumpers. We pull out our phones.

.

..

DECEMBER TREES

Lines across the bursting purple-red sun
as it dips into the water outside
my parents’ window frames.

Dad and I are watching NCIS on mute.
The elder doctor has a heart attack

on a beach as headquarters is bombed.
We’ve seen this. The terrorist is found.
I listen to my father breathe, tense:

All thoughts in my right ear. He wheezes
with each inhale, holds his glass by the stem.
I flex my feet before the screen.

It is as if we have turned into pines.
Sometimes he repeats conversations.
Healthcare’s over, nobody has a job.

Damn dog swam around the fence again,
ate the neighbors’ Japanese bush
cost four hundred dollars.

Let’s see who’s winning Ryder.
Tiger well of course all those hussies
but a real golfer all the same.

You hungry yet, something to eat?

Four windows show the last pinks crushed
between the far bank and the blackening sky.
In the shallows of the lake

petrified trees reach stiffly out from the water.
The surface has begun to heave.
Loud fast wind shakes

the air like panic. My father looks at me.
So are you ever going to get married?
Or is that not in your plan.

In the future, maybe. He rolls his eyes
up at the ceiling, he pats my arm gently
with the hand around my shoulder.

I wish you had a couple of kids,
he’d said on our last car trip.
Before it had always been:

Get married when you can’t not get married.
We had driven to my brother’s for Thanksgiving,
the first holiday we all knew he desired men.

By six Dad snores in his room. I watch an NCIS
marathon: a young lieutenant is shot in her forehead
on a quiet roof, another woman replaces her.

She kills the terrorist, her own twin, to prove
she is worth the trust of the squad. I drop my head
on my folded knees. The TV’s still on mute

so I hear the keys in the door as they come in,
laughing. How was he, my brother asks.
I rub my face on my pants and call, Okay,

as he and my mother set bags down.
We walk into the kitchen and start opening
takeout cartons. The clean smell of white rice

and oil. Things are so much harder,
I just wish he wasn’t, Dad had murmured.
I’d said it was OK to feel that way.

In the kitchen they hand me a plate, uncork
wine. I shake my head and we sigh loudly
at the trash’s empty bottles.

We eat too much kung pao and groan
in fullness. When we all hug goodnight
my stomach is hard as a bullet.

A former Goldwater Fellow in Poetry at NYU, VIRGINIA MCCLURE has writing in BOMB, Bedford+Bowery, PANK, Asymptote, Meridian and Black Sun Lit. She is a 2015-2016 Artist-in-Residence with the Ogilvy & Mather agency in New York.