In a game I don’t know how to play my son turns
me into a cartoon woman with white hair and pigtails.

He sets out a tent for me, plants cosmos and hyacinths
all around. He builds me a chair that faces the sea,

and a birdbath. I have never told him I’m afraid of birds,
which cannot be reasoned with. When I join him

he gives me—the smiling big-eyed version of me—
his most useful tools. We will collect coral and sea snails,

so easy, he will teach me to fish, he will give me medicine
when I chop wood from the wrong tree and the wasps

hurt me. Together we will catch butterflies,
white and yellow and blue, red if we’re lucky, if a storm

blows one this way. We’ll sell them, the butterflies,
the rarer the better, we’ll sell the corals and sea snails,

oranges and the wasps’ nest and the terribly ugly fish.
Then, he says, you will have a real home.


ISLAND LIVING by Carolyn Oliver



Photo used under CC