On a Palm

“I wish you could’ve been there,” Rudden said.
“In fact, you should have. ‘All the world sprang up,
The sky like sapphire, from an emerald bed
Of sea, and down the cape, like cup on cup,
The Pitons, rose in beauty fused to dread.’”

“Sounds great,” I answered, “maybe you could bring
Some snapshots in, or maybe the brochure
You pulled that from. It sounds like just the thing.”
“No,” she said, “No,” and pushed on to assure
Me, I’d missed how the gulls float on bright wing.

“It’d never show you how the palms stretched out
Above the shore as sand slipped down to sea.
Their trunks stood sideways; perky fronds about
As broad as this door made a canopy
In the noon heat. I’m botching this, no doubt.”

“Not at all. I get what you mean. Sounds nice!”
“You don’t,” she said. “You had to be there, too.
There was this palm. This palm. The leaves would slice
The air above us, so that light peeked through
The green shade like a prism of pure ice.

“I’d stare up at the rustling underside
And think the sky was heaven, this was peace.
The third day, I woke from a nap and spied,
Tucked in the leaves, two eyes staring down at ease
As if they had some judgment to decide.

“I didn’t move, just watched them watching me.
My eyes adjusted, came to penetrate
The placid dimness, till I could just see
The soft grey folds of owl down, the freight
Of its small body clutched where frond met tree.

“It was so strange. You had to see it there.”
“I can,” I said, “an owl. That is odd.”
But Rudden wasn’t having it. “I stared
At its cocked head, and caught its rigid nod.
It was deliberate as a priest at prayer:

“To see it as it was, the eyes and all,
To see the light come weaving through the palm—
The more I say, the more it seems I’ll maul
The whole thing.” I watched, till she seemed to calm,
Harrumph, then move intently down the hall.