‘Hibiscus Lane’

It is still freakin’ cold out there, so I’m posting another Caribbean composition from the vault.—PM


Hibiscus Lane


One nimble gecko scaling a mosquito net remains the only lizard we’ve seen in a week on the island whose old name, Hewanorra, means “where the iguana is found.” Purple hummingbirds sip ginger and hibiscus. Fan palm rustles, banana leaves shrug. Doves hoo and hoo. Labrelotte Bay gleams blue-silver, sun chinning the hillside inlaid with red-roofed, white-washed villas, its light bleaching distant sailboats. In a yellow kayak, George Charles digs the sea with a two-ended paddle, sprinting to his dive boat. He hauls up the transport—sets off with bup-bup-bupping engine. All day he’ll taxi tourists to St. Lucia’s primo reef, full of darting rubies and doubloons whose reflections fuse after cloudburst to make half a water-colored hoop joining Morne Fortune to Gros Islet.


Midway into the bay a wave rears like a white chess knight, mane flaring. Nature’s small-engine sound, the whirr spun from a metal web, all fired carbon, shaped mineral, plug-spark, all real to the feel, some handmade combo jazzed and razzed like an oil drum in its new plinking form—the volcano to my left served stone gravy. I like to see banana trees, something different to write home about. Hands of bananas green, hard, clustered. Are we grown like bananas, cropping up each season, ripening each winter, ready to be consumed, the wrinkled sheets our peels, all that’s left after a week? Curved clay tiles colored like plant pots and pipes, same roofing across old mission California, hard shells first formed on the shins of early builders, tiles the color of tomato-dyed pasta. Wind-surfer sails in the middle distance, his investigations, not so deep, need not be shallow—he requires less: water-spider, finch, reed. Light is not enough of a word for the value of air around the terra-cotta patio.


St. Lucia, St. Lulu, blue-green and green-blue—there’s an ooh in the blue air, in the o-round mouth on the white deck of the cruise liner chasing a tank ship bound for the oil farm at Castries. Dark parts of the seascape like indigo ink slurred thru turquoise fields in the bay. Jet-lets of spume way off shore—the dip boat, no banana boat, shipped out. Each villa boasts a few plain conch shells, T-Rex of seashells, grail we never find up north, bony case with smooth pink lining. Each villa is a conch of white walls and terra-cotta floors. With its owner away, we snowbirds claim the showy chassis for a couple of hot weeks. Julia, at the front desk, thirty years old this month, says Nelson Mandela said if he had to choose a place to live outside of South Africa, it would be St. Lucia, where he could sleep with doors open. It’s so calm, she says. When I tell her I admire Derek Walcott’s poems, she says his birthday is January 26th, which is mine, too, and that he’ll be home next month for the island’s Independence Day party. He may write something special. When I mention his teaching in Boston, she nods, “Yes, the Nobel Laureate.” Julia asks if my hometown is “cool,” calm, she explains, not too busy like New York City.

—Paul Marion (c) 2014