For Jane

Clear and tropical sunrise:
we left our thatched home bright
with wicker wishes, paradise-for-a-week,
roosters loose among the flowers. Sunlight
pearled through the hammock
in long, lemon curls.

Near the jetty I looked to the water,
saw a small clump flustered.
In their midst a sprawled and lolling fish,
seaweed-green, beached.

But something:
a not-quite-right something,
one, two, three heaves to a chest
oh God,
not a fish.

We dropped our bags and ran,
joined that family on our knees
barely breathing ourselves,
we, the fresh recruits.
The others scattered like a wave
as if to help
diffuse their blame at this limp creature,
lime-suited body,
flippered feet askew,
skin dull and thick as paste.

I tried my lips and tasted death:
sea-bottom sick, dull eyes rolled,
ears blueing.
Her lungs hung and swelled like a gallows.

And then-
no air, no life, no use:
a burdened rowboat,
a thinning crowd.

I stared blankly
at new arrivals, children playing
on the reef as the tide washed in,
lapping away any
marks she had tried
to hold on