Monday, February 15, 2010

Tropic of Cancer (Valentine's Day Redux)

Cinnamon piercing eucalyptus,
        humid, lush, golden,
Elephants trumpeting, and birds,
        always birds, flashing
Hibiscus scarlet and peacock blue and nasturtium yellow.
Music and laughter and afternoon tea under the jacaranda blossoms,
        Warm gleaming brown bodies
weaving their stories into the tale of our lives
        until they become our own

Then in the evenings, saffron moon dipping
        low over Anjarakandy sky
Cinnamon-laced eucalyptus breeze
        wafting in waves over shadowy verandah
River chuckling lazily as it
        wends its way, untroubled,
                through dappled forest …
In the distance, coolies singing
        And on the horizon the drums
                marking time

Because we live in the Tropic of Cancer
where the temperature and the time and the tempo
        fuse to this magical moment
when the boxer from Canada can find the Irish princess
        and in the presence of God and these witnesses
write a fairytale with music and laughter and afternoon tea
        and children and friends and stories and love

And so it goes for forty years. Then the page is turned
and the boxer and the princess make their weary way
to northern climes
        where the temperature chills to the bone
        and the friends are wrapped in grey isolation
        and the birds escape for the winter
        and the children are writing their own stories.
So they rely on each other for warmth, for beauty,
        for music, for comfort, until the day
                the princess cannot rise

And the boxer calls the doctor, who
        calls the ambulance that
                wails its way in record time

To the one magician in the city
        who holds the keys
of life and death

The next day, so still, so wounded,
        split in two like an overripe papaya,
                bloated and tiny in her bed
The princess lies, so still, so wounded

The children gather, and the banshee howl
        pierces the morning:
“Mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy …”
And they retreat as one to the waiting room
        of their united memories and their various solitudes

But the boxer stays by his princess
        and loves her and believes –
He gets her the ice chips that cool her failing body
He tells her the stories that calm her fevered mind
His presence can reach her, his touch
        give her strength
And his quavering voice sings her the music of old,
        reminds her
                that they have lived in the Tropic of Cancer before
And he brings her the birds and the moon and the jacaranda tree
        and the river that flows as steady as their love

Until the day that she opens her eyes
Until the day she whispers for tea
Until the day she holds his hand
Until the day she knows
Death did not them part
        this time

And the Tropic of Cancer, which brought them together
        so many years ago,
showed them the way to sustain each other
        through matters of the blood
                and matters of the heart
                        when he would need her hand

And so it went
For though the heart was strong
        the blood grew weak
and the princess grew tired




Until the last evening the boxer held her hands
        and gazed steadfastly into her face
                        and sang her to the gates
                of heaven

But just before she went through them
        the princess opened her eyes
                and gazed back
                at him
                at him

And brown eyes locked with hazel –
a tender “goodnight” too deep for words

The day they committed her body to the ground
He sang for her one more time:
“Have I told you lately
                                        I love you?”

And the question hung, trembling, in the air

But the princess must have heard, for 
                                      the next day
                                                a rainbow –
                                                            her sign –
                                                         from heaven
                                              back to earth 
                                       back to him
A promise of love stronger than death

A promise that the princess will be waiting
        at those gates, waiting
to gaze again into his face, waiting 
        to hear her boxer murmur
                "Have I told you lately ...?"

And the tropic circle of latitude will be restored 
        once more
                beside the river of life
And Irish eyes will smile

© Karyn C. Ironside September 4, 2006; February 14, 2010

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