This is the old country,
A land of statuary herons,
Where chevron squads of pelicans patrol
The glittering green shallows of the gulf.
Where color schemes are chiefly melon,
Flamingo pinks, and tropical pastels.
Where all day single-engine planes buzz by.
Their block red-letter advertisements scroll
Across those beefy, milk-white cumuli:
EAT SHRIMP AT RUBY'S-BY-THE-BAY.
RAW BAR AT JACK'S. ALASKA KING CRAB CLAWS.
ENJOY WORLD FAMOUS KEY LIME PIE.
Ponce de Leon, is this that paradise
You sought, whose tonics might restore
The potency and thrust of youth? The truth
Is that the old grow older here.
Their bones go frail as balsawood.
Strokes slur their speech. Their eyes become
Diminished lakes. We watch them dodder
Down grocery aisles. We see them heft
Their chronic coughs and aches along the beach.
Their sorrows all metastasize they must
And yet we seldom say a word
Or spend much time imagining ourselves
In thirty years. Shivering and sweating.
A lukewarm spittle on the chin.
Wide-open hours of waiting and regretting.
The air-conditioned room of our hotel
Looks out on swimming pool and sea.
We've paid good money for the view.
We seek the boredom that they know so well.
Back home, it's thirty-three degrees,
The March rain changing steadily to sleet.
We're only here another day. And if tonight
We eat at Ruby's-by-the-Bay
Or Jack's what difference will it make?
The beach boy, having closed up shop,
Has faced his bath chairs to the west
In regimented rows. Beside
The ponderous and receding tide
Three toasted, golden teenage girls relax.
They're sitting cross-legged in the sand
And posing for a picture that a fourth
Intends to take. Each tosses back her hair
Then feigns a fashion model's runway stare.
Cotton blouses. An almost chilly breeze.
That blush reflection of the sinking sun.
Just listen to them shriek and laugh.
Let memory and love arrest them there.