by Jesse Patrick Ferguson
My heart broke with the first ring-billed gull
I saw slice through rays of morning sun
above my head. So far from other land,
how could it be? He alighted
in the canopy of my shade tree,
and I thought I caught, clasped in his beak,
the paltry shimmer of a candy-bar wrapper.
Then the garbage came in earnest, drifting in
along my shores. Each morning with its crop
of tangled ropes, Dixie cups, hoses and water bottles,
beer cans, condoms and left sneakers.
Perhaps useful to one in my position,
but all unwanted trash to me, all presaging ill.
The sea, my sea, was changing its mind,
pulling away. Its moods gone perverse,
the vicissitudes of tide ruined my sleep.
My spirits dropped with the high-water marks
I weekly scratched on a cliff face by my camp.
My coastline was stretching,
my kingdom shrinking with it.
One morning I tried in vain to rub a vision
from my eyes: new, smaller islands appearing
not far offshore, an archipelago lurking
beneath the calm surface. My knees shook
as day by day I could walk further
along the sandbar to my fishing grounds.
My knife wavered as it hit plastic shards
in the stomachs of my catch.
By night I cringed at unearthly glow
on the horizon and, worse, distant taillights
like dark angels passing over
that far-off somewhere
that threatens to annex my here.
If I thought it could help, this would be
my message in a bottle: not find me here
by seeking the beach with a triangle of stones.
Not details of currents and stars, flora and fauna
at such-and-such a season. Not SOS,
as this soul needs no saving
and would be lost through their finding.
No, I’d scratch in blood on a blanched palm leaf
to stay away, steer clear of this barren rock
with its hidden reefs, its poisonous plants.
No one lives here, nor will any being ever
except inbred ship rats from some long-ago wreck.
I’d shove this warning down the throat
of my last wine bottle and hurl it with a curse
into this diminished rage of surf.
But it’s no use. Already I hear, faintly,
the uncouth shouting of brats laying siege
to sandcastles on their beaches. I hear car doors
slamming, dogs yelping, Jet Skis growling
across halcyon bays. I feel the shrewd gaze
of hotel developers ogling
my ocean-front property through binoculars.
Exposed, I hide my nakedness behind
an apron of thin leaves and wait,
listening for the distant drums,
for the revving engines and thoughtless laughter.
I wait, for they will take my island.