After Elizabeth Bishop
There are too many palm trees.
The sky, overcrowded with clouds,
towers with thunderheads
every monsoon afternoon. Too much beach.
At dusk the tide slides in,
rubs its rippling silver skin on the rocks,
licks its tongue along the sand.
The sun, broken, spills its yolk
onto too many mountains, distant islands.
Night lights a candle—
the gas flare of an oil rig
out at sea.
Should we have stayed on the couch,
David Attenborough’s voice
guiding us through the jungle
to a solitary orangutan
savouring wild fruit in a tree?
Our usual waiter, Rajis, sleeps
under a beach palm
on his rare day off.
Am I in a Graham Greene novel?
Locals watch us watch them.
They wave as we walk along the beach.
They seem to love us for the Ringits
we spend. Their smiles are so friendly.
We scan the sky for Imperial Green pigeons
winging to a hidden roost.
We yearn for Elysium
no footprints but our own.
“What a silly wish!” We agree
over G & Ts at the Sunset Bar.
It would have been a shame
not to drive the mountain road at dawn
watch the highest peak tear off the mist.
And not a shame. Ah, Sunrise. An Oriole,
tail on fire, feasting on yellow berries.
Is it wrong to feel the alpine forest throb,
hear it sing at 6am?
I crumple my guilt like the package
of taro chips, greasy with palm oil.
Toss it into the bin at the park gate.
Yes, a shame
not to see the Bird’s Nest fern huddled
in the crotch of a muscular fig tree.
A shame at the end of another day
to fill the jeep’s tank with cheap local petrol.
A shame to burn the brakes in the rain
all the way down the mountain
past the rubber plantations
as our species burns the jungle.
A shame not to watch the fading sky
drape the sea with its sarong.