The Sea Grape Remembers

It has been five years
since I visited you
my old Sea Grape friend,
standing proud and
wizened in the front yard,
unbothered by all
the construction behind.

Everything is smaller
and crowded than
I once lived it,
except for you—
still the right size
for a wild girl to climb,
providing enough shade
for a shy and pensive boy
to shelter under and
think lyric thoughts
or listen to the Dolphins
playing their first football
on a scratchy transistor radio.

I was always the net
under your boughs
lest that restive girl
should fall after proudly
reaching your canopy,
seeing the open sky
the soft sunlight
kissing her face forever
urging a higher climb.

She never did stumble,
not even once, just
shaking green hard grapes
loose onto my head
like Newton’s apples,
creating ideas for
stories to explore and write.

She is still a Sea Grape climber
and I a shade tree dweller,
she ever conquering canopies
and I seeking safe shadows
to read under, plot and scribble.

Your life has spanned
close to a century,
although I have known
you near sixty of those.

Your history, I imagine
had you a transplanted twig
torn from Crandon shores
to become, after the road,
the first magnificent presence
in the middle of East Shore Drive,
the pride of the community
that built a wall to contain,
protect you from Atlantic winds.

You are the survivor
having seen the coco tree
just across the sidewalk
break in a hurricane,
and the banana plant,
which never fruited,
behind the barrier wall,
under the corner eaves,
(where beneath its fronds,
I watched my first desire
shivering cross armed
in a blue maid’s dress, seeking
shelter from the pelting rain)
the succumbing victim
of gnats, flies, mosquitos
and persistent tropical rot.

I saved my first kiss so it
reside under your embrace,
an awkward peck that
braced her to your trunk,
unleashing an army
of carpenter ants that
trooped through her hair,
the cleft in your middle
a way station for home invasion.

I knew then that you were
a jealous protector of
all the things that loved you,
at least the human ones,
for I never witnessed
gray squirrels scurry
up your speckled trunk,
nor mockingbird nests
resting in tan scar branches,
nor a single heart leaf,
fall sadly to the ground.

The old house behind you,
has kept true to your colors,
beginning green as the sea
and the initial touch of hand to leaf;
five years after college,
a new owner turning it tan
as your weathered bark;
ten years yon, after mom’s funeral,
it like the twilight glow dusting
your every branch and limb;
till thirty years later, I stand here
feeling the squishy snap of your
purple mature fruit under my feet,
the destruction echoed in the
dusty patina walls looking
like a Pompeian relic.

Now everything is a remodel,
peafowls, peahens, peachicks
with their rainbow eye tails,
iguanas strutting everywhere,
roosting for competing limbs
in mangroves and cypress,
though respecting your old dame
privacy and royal privilege,
while the din of new spaces
being built on still good wood
vibrates out to you my friend.

I scoop some of your purple pulp
into a zip lock plastic bag,
I keep in the car for road trip
vegetable treasures, enough
for a proper souvenir, the rest
reserved for my wife to make
a sweet, tangy Sea Grape jelly,
knowing that this will be
the last time I spend with you
in your earthly eternity.

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