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Lost in the Music of Love

Wandering loner

Broken by Life

Pharmaceutically numbed

Descendant of slaves

Chibuike’s mistake was speaking out

Against the regime, which thanked him

With ten years of hard labor under the whip.

How he came to be in the Maritimes no one knew.

Mostly now, he took odd jobs,

Smoked weed, and kept to himself

Neither fast nor sleek,

A schooner designed in the days when

Men (they were all men) towed their

Seines by sail and guano factories filled

Wooden buildings at dock’s end

The days when wooden ships and

Iron men conquered the seas.

Long since retired, replaced

By trawlers that scrape vast

Swaths of ocean without regard

For coral or dolphin, with no thought

To the reality that soon there will be no fish.

She sat dockside for decades collecting

Long tentacles of seaweed and

Dense colonies of barnacles,

Her hemp lines and cotton sails rotting.

He got her for a song after the harbormaster,

At the urging of the community, condemned her.

They say masters and canines, as well as

Long-married couples, look alike.

So it was with Chibuike and his vessel –

His long hair matted into wads of unkept

Dreads matching the strands of kelp.

Black hull to match his black face.

Both unkept. Both weathered.

Both had seen better days.

He spoke to few, scavenged the beaches,

And labored dawn to dusk.

Her hull was sound, her bones good,

Planes, axes, saws, knives, anvil, hammer and nails,

Cutting, fitting, shaving, shaping

He searched cedar swamps for the

Perfect trees to shape into spars,

Braiding line and sewing canvas below

Decks during rain storms and blizzards,

Diving, swimming, scraping the hull in summer,

Caulking, painting, varnishing, refitting, polishing

Nearly three years passed before the

Newly christened Omega

(her name painted in gold script on her transom)

Set sail – Mains’il, mizzen, a pair of jibs

Filled by a 12-knot southerly breeze,

She heeled slightly to port on starboard tack

As she glided out of the harbor, and

Past the lighthouse to the cheers and

Waves of pleasure sailors and Coasties.

His dreads ruffled in the wind

As he stood sentinel at the helm with

Leather face and calloused hands.

He caught the Westerlies to Great Britain,

Through Gibraltar to the Med, then

Caught the Trades through the

Indian Ocean to the South Pacific.

They joined him near Samoa, the three

Bare-chested women

All fleeing from

Bear-chested men.

True to her name, Salamasina

Rescued the others –

Inina, beaten into shy submissiveness,

And Aolani, who dreamt of lounging on clouds –

Deep bronze flesh complimenting

Chibuike’s dark black skin.

Gale-force winds buffeted as

Close-hauled, the foursome,

Muscles straining, hands bleeding,

Kept Omega headed up around the

Cape that swallowed many a sailor,

And set widows to wailing.

Twenty-foot waves

Icy salt water caked their eyes,

His beard, their long hair

Gallons poured over the transom

Hand-pumps sprinted

Mains’il furled, storms’il reefed

Her timbers groaned, but, like a

Hereford bull in a midwest blizzard,

She tenaciously ploughed on.

At first it was a relief to be without

Wind and waves and stinging spray,

But the doldrums eat away like termites

On a person’s sanity.

Blistering hot sun, still air, not a hint of a

Catspaw, nor a stirring of life,

She sat in irons day after day after curséd day.

Throats parched, lips cracked, four sun-scorched

Vagabonds waiting to die, when a stanza from

Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Escaped Aolani’s lips,

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

Ever the dreamer, Aolani gazed

Heavenward as she recited and spotted, far aloft

A frigate bird soaring on updrafts,

Now heading towards Omega,

She seemed to somehow be pulling

Clouds behind her, as if invisibly tethered.

Aolani cried out, Salamasina scoffed, Inina never looked up,

But with eyes dried almost shut, Chibuike shaded his face with

Sunburnt hands and found the strength to stand.

Frigate bird towing clouds grew closer,

She swept down towards Omega

Tilted her wings like Blue Angles in formation

Aolani swore she saw her smile, (only to be

Rebuked by Salamasina)

As the frigate bird encircled, the clouds engulfed

Ship and crew; a cool foggy mist revived

Eyes and skin and lips and tongues

As grey clouds gently washed them with soft rain.

Omega rocked side to side with joy,

Salamasina, Inina, Aolani, and Chibuike

Held hands and danced on the aft deck,

Faces to the sky, mouths agape to the rain,

Which soon filled pots and pans and small barrels.

They stripped off their clothes and splashed and

Bathed and drank and laughed and danced for joy;

Frigate bird swooped across their heads, let out a call

To the clouds and the breeze swelled.

Salamasina and Chibuike hoisted mains’il,

Mizzen, and jibs, which quickly bloomed;

Planks creaked and Omega pushed onward

On a broad reach – it took both Inina and Aolani,

Still laughing, to steady the helm.

Day after day, they had fair weather and

Following seas; day after day, the frigate bird

Was their guide. They ignored the compass and

Followed their avian pilot; she showed them

Schools of fish to feed their hunger, eddies to

Speed their journey to the unknown.

Inina spotted it first – the top of the dormant

Volcano above the white clouds; the island

Came into view as they approached – the

Frigate bird sounding their arrival to a

Natural sheltered harbor where, at long last,

They dropped anchor.

It was then that the seabird guide bid them farewell

With what they swore was a bow.

The island appeared deserted, and

Indeed, after thorough exploration,

Was confirmed to be so.

Here were cliffs covered in blue-footed boobies,

Beaches commanded by centuries-old tortoises.

Here, finches flitted and sang amongst palms that

Stood sentinel over birds-of-paradise.

Underground rivers fed bubbling springs of

Clear, pristine, sweetwater.

Hot springs fed a turquoise pool where

The foursome bathed and relaxed in their

Private spa as gentle breezes wafted above.

This place, it turns out, is not on any chart.

According to academics, it does not exist.

Its flora and fauna are incompatible with

Its longitude and latitude, and, though one

Can see storms and waves in the distance and

From them surmise hurricanes and blizzards,

Here, it is always springtime.

Here, too, between the bird and turtle eggs and

An abundance of ono in shallow

Pools nearly asking to be picked up, there is

Plenty of food.

Here, they sat around the evening fire and

Related the stories of their pasts –

Inina, in the middle of six children,

Mostly ignored by busy parents,

An arranged marriage when she was

Sixteen to a fat old drunk who slapped

Her around and pimped her out to his

Drinking buddies.

Aolani, who loved literature and poetry,

Who kept a diary of her verses, who loved

Birds and flowers and dreamt of university,

Of becoming an artist and a poet.

Aolani, who was likewise married off as a

Teenager to a boy she’d grown up with,

A friend of the family, who was nice and kind

And caring until one afternoon, when, at the

Shipyard where he worked, a beam

Fell on his head, spitting his skull. He

Lay in a coma for months. No one expected

Him to live, but awaken he did, albeit in

Frightening persona – he raged and cursed,

Threatened, threw hammers, pointed guns;

She cowered in corners until

Salamasina came along, who had herself

Been beaten by a drunk unemployed husband

Until she, filled with rage, fought back,

Knocked him out and down a flight of

Concrete steps where he lay dying. She

Knew she had to flee the paternalistic

Justice system and knew the stories of

Her neighbors Inina and Aolani, it being

A small town where most everyone knew

Most everything.

Salamasina almost physically picked up

Inina and Aolani and carried them to the

Harbor where they swam to Chibuike’s Omega

Seeking refuge. Chibuike always had a heart for

The broken outcasts, having grown up in

An African village under the thumb of a brutal

Dictator known for feeding his enemies to

Crocodiles, stuffing ballots, and demanding worship.

All it took was attending a protest rally to put him

In a cage every night, feed him on maggot-infested

Slop, and work him in a mine 14 hours a day.

A decade passed before he saw his chance and ran

Boxcars and stolen bicycles across the mountains to the

Sea where on an old tub of a freighter he labored

As a mechanic’s helper in a roaring engine room

Spitting oil until they arrived in Halifax.

Four refugees from life –

Salamasina, Inina, Aolani, and Chibuike

Walked the beaches of their private

Paradise, ate of Neptune’s abundance,

Bathed in pools of the Pegaeae, sailed in and out of

The coves along the shoreline in Omega.

Broken schooner and broken people –

Omega, Salamasina, Inina, Aolani, and Chibuike

Found healing in one another, grew in

Love for one another, and cared for

One another as the years passed under the

Blanket of the Milky Way – their love

Heralded by shooting stars and quivering

Emerald lights; their days concluding with

Triple rainbows and leaping dolphins and

Fluke-slapping whales, as tiny crabs crawled

Over their bare feet and across Omega’s decks.

Months passed before he came –

Out of a rainbow, he descended from

The galaxies – majestic, noble, glistening with

Beams of blue light – a diadem of flowers on his

Brow, energy like electric currents shooting from his

Fingertips, dreadlocks to his knees, a golden sword to

Compliment his deep bronze face, a robe of stars.

As he moved, floating a foot or two above the ground,

Strange ethereal music swelled, along with choruses sung

By turtles, birds, lizards, and flowers, as the wind kept time.

He gestured and Salamasina, Inina, Aolani, Chibuike, and

Omega floated aloft with him – softly gently, slowly

Swirling in the air, around and around

Lost in the music of love.

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