In my kayak I am Marcus Antonius,
drifting past pyramids ofÂ trees
and alligator-laden banks. Ahead
lies a phalanx of skyscrapers in Tampa,
then St. Petersburg. A good spit farther
the Gulf, with its wild waters, spins
freighters like tops before swallowing.
The meek float to Corpus Christi,
find television interviews and religion.
The strong land in Yucatan, seek the spirit
of Cleopatra in every sip of tequila.
Lightning doesnâ€™t frighten me,
even knowing its power can split molecules,
reduce trees to ash, flip off the life switch.
It is the beauty of fireworks in reverse,
the ugly of scorched earth.
I fear other things less potent,
cancer, Alzheimerâ€™s, stroke,
but would rather face lightning than those.
Mounted on the bronze horse at the fairground entry
I would thrust my flea market samurai sword
into the sky,
ride like Cardigan leading the charge of the light brigade
or J.E.B. Stuart in a thunderous Confederate raid.
Maybe my grandmother had similar crazy-like thoughts
when she was found wandering in promising weather,
far from the nursing home.
Perhaps she wanted to be Joan of Arc or Zenobia,
but couldnâ€™t remember the street
that corralled the bronze steed.
for our palmettos,
each a mask of frozen milk.
On my walk I scratch a quick message,
feel shaved ice clump under my fingernail,
ideas that could be lost in a slumbering brain,
thoughts on writing. If any note survives
two wooden bridgesÂ and a circle
around a steaming pond,
it is worth remembering.
With perpetual tans and olive hands
that gripped chisels and hammers
until lightning came, the stonecutters
were scorned because buongiorno
rolled from a warm tongue
to land against the chilled cheeks
of Welsh and Irish miners. Forged
of similar fear, they forced the Italians
into a distant hollow.
Today, the biggest walnuts grow
in Tali Bottom. From the trees
of trees from trees, the orbs fall like
cannon balls onto leaves and twigs
and shards of broken crocks,
roll against limestone foundations.
There is always a buckâ€”from a buck
many times removedâ€”in the clearing,
listening for sounds of Romance.