Poetry: Cuba Libre | clivejames.com
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Cuba Libre

Sosua, Republica Dominicana

Huge jasmine flowers, bright white
as the clouds that hang around, high up,
will have dwindled to one or none — Wednesday,
Monday's Telegraph is the closest thing to home.
The street's quiet. Vendors sit.
An old man mans the internet café,
high up MUSIC SHOP Communication Centre
his sign, paint on tin, swings in the breeze.
He lays for hours flat out on the shop floor's cool,
at dusk, sits outside and gets up, now and then
to switch on one of the machines that groan
at the back of the room. I perch amidst piled up paintings —
large bad ones: sunsets, turbaned women
carry gaudy buckets; boys in shorts picking
unlikely looking fruit in English green fields,
flat as the one you see if you swim out
from the beach, thin board: heavy air and amber
dusk streaked in colour, heavy palms that stoop
to dip in water held more still than here, the north side
of the island where Atlantic waves grow recklessly high,
and soar and crash over American and Canadian
college kids who bodyboard— or boogyboard.
It's all the same — surfing but lying down, possible
on more rum than any pirate ever drank: flying fish,
legs disappearing inside the waves, a cocktail mix
of Margarita salt and coconut oil on sunburned lips,
burned and half drowned on their Easter break.
Out there, with them, I twist my neck. We wait
and wait, for catastrophe: the big one, it's brewing,
it's brewing they yell, leaving me thinking ridiculously of tea,
caught up in wave after wave too strong to have taken on,
gasping, wanting that flat green field, a lime green crease
in the land where there might almost be a cricket
or a baseball game below the rough line of the hills,
charcoal jagged, remember, a rushed first draft;
the short fat clustered palms and few restaurant shacks,
the rocks to the west and the stretched arm
of the bay and to the east, the new beach
last year's storm threw down like a towel,
wanting all this to reappear as easily as, each night,
the lights of the next town. Crusted jewels —
yellow, green, blue — the whole washed up place so small
that there's nothing there all day suddenly
pinned down, glittering, like sequins on the costumes
of the carnival our bus trailed on the way here. Only now
those houses catch the light, like the sea, with its calm,
fooling pools of opal green. The stars are smudged,
their edges taken off by mist or spray from the waves
on a sky as dark as when time after time after
time the lights fail and the room, like all the rest,
plunges into darkness. The whole island gone
for a second that becomes five or six or ten
and surfacing again: flickering, hesitating
the way I do, out there, never sure I'll get up
and run back for more, out where anyone
could disappear with as little oily spirit trace
as ice in a drink, pulled down to nothingness,
reaching up to be let back through to the heavy air,
the beach, the streets and corrugated tin bars
that could crumple easily as cans; the paintings
nobody takes home tacked up in rows; the jasmine
and the empty paper racks, sold out,
with no news due for days.