a loooooong poem

chinua dreamt of tsunamis

days and days before the rings were on our fingers,
bells ringing across the water,
chinua woke up crying
in the sorrow of recurring dreams.
these waves and waves of affliction
waves terrible, filling the sky, rising until
the sea came and took me and
left him searching.

he had these dreams while we were still
walking in sandy places, backpacks on our shoulders,
a violin, a guitar, in our free hands
chinua sleeping in, I awake with our friends,
drinking chai on the beach in the morning.
these places like cupped hands holding us warm,
we traveled happy and smiling.

we slept in hammocks strung
on palm trees along the water
between jungle and sea, sand and sky.
every night the ocean picked itself up and moved
to the jungle line, we swayed in our cradles
above the black water. wild pigs rummaged in the plant life.

it was chinua and I and three friends, our great
friends. and then the larger crowd, forty or so
looking for paradise.
about half later came down with malaria
sick and feverish on the ship home. one boy died.
he was blond and lively from Sweden and passed away in the
river city of India, where the dead are always carried to the
banks of the water.

we learned then of the hostility of the tropics,
the great gaping sores, the bug bites, skin leaving you,
giving up and going. the quickly spreading disease

and it was around then that chinua started dreaming
and the ocean turned against us in his dreams
the sky alive with writhing.
chinua always searching for
his love carried away,
with me his future.
the children that would be, days of glad thoughts.
many many sorrows, the misunderstandings we never
could conceive of.

there is a slide of ours that I remember.
I can see myself in that photograph. my face shiny
and brown, hot with close wet heat that relaxed our muscles
and made us barely able to move,
I am smiling on the beach. glasses and short curly hair and so thin
from months of harboring whatever parasite my body had given refuge to.
I think of that body, it had never sheltered anything but parasites,
never bent so far out of shape, never carried
its own flesh and blood until the time came
to stand up and let that tiny person out, wailing.
my little tan body.
cow-coloured, chinua said. there was that one graceful cow in pushkar
that reminded him of me. a beautiful compliment,
this little solemn buttery cow with eyes like round cups.

I think of that beach, behind me, in the photograph.
little Andaman. the tiniest of islands. there really was only
one restaurant there, in the home of a kind Indian man
who loved to sit and have tea with us, talking into the night.
I think of the shy nicobari, the great believing hearts of island people
they gave us ripe green bananas that tasted like heaven,
they took us to their village, sat with us in houses on stilts.
unsteady houses crooked on their long legs. the shy nicobari
who love Jesus and live simply on the smallest of islands.

that beach. we saw rainbows, rainbows in the sky, reflected
in the tide pools mid day. tide pools reflecting the benign sky.
under a ringed moon chinua asked me to be his forever
under a moon so bright we could see our feet
standing in water to our waists.

now the tsunamis have come, the dreams fulfilled
only, we are not there.
we have come home, we have had our day of vows
we have our babies.
and far away the ocean has turned against the shy nicobari and
the indians on the andamans. the sky has filled with water
and it has swallowed them. so many dead.
my head fills with water, my heart is coming down like rain.
islands that were one are now two. people weep and bury the found dead.
the cupped hands of the tropics have crashed together and broken them.

and I read of the lost tribes, of the tiniest of islands being swallowed.
read of one nicobari man who lost everything, who felt the earth
throw itself in the air and only had time to run when he saw
the ocean leap into the sky.
he ran with his child and eluded the water, found the high ground.
"saved by Jesus," in his own words, though the water has claimed many,
Jesus must have a reason for saving him, and must have a reason
for bringing us home, for giving us children who will perhaps one day understand our sorrow over these razed and lonely beaches,
between jungle and sea, sand and sky.