“Turn back!” was all she snapped out as she passed
in a red dress that caught sunrays through mist.
I saw her lurch upwind, kick off spiked heels,
climb out to the edge of a knife-sharp rockpile,
and, arms outstretched, lead the sea’s tympani,
lure the din, guiding the steamy waves
to shore. Will the Almighty answer me?
she sang out to the ocean’s rising octaves,
as blown palms pointed scarflike fronds to land.
Earlier that Sunday, she had prayed
to a black Christ in a church on the island,
droned verses for a safe calm, and trekked homeward
to board white louvered windows for the storm.
She had refused the chapel’s sanctuary
to ask the ocean why the wind ripped homes
and would again. Her anger captured me,
and stayed when I saw rain gleam on red ginger,
drench trumpets islanders call yellow-bells,
and soak ixora. Bonelike bits of shells
and conchs lay on the beach as on an altar.
Silent, I watched her. Under a blank sky,
where waves broke over coral, in thick haze,
pitched forward to hear the whirlwind’s reply,
she shook a fist, then opened hands in praise.