By Shara McCallum
We lived in the house of the slamming doors.
Wind blew into and through each room,
turning our home into a raft, billowing curtains
like sails, setting the four of us adrift.
Our youngest called the place a castle,
she and her sister competing to spy the turret
whenever we rounded the corner
that brought the roof back into view.
Walking the footpath to the sea,
the children collected rocks, picked weeds
they insisted were flowers, side-stepped the plague
of African snails, entrails splayed and crisping in the sun.
Whole days were spent with each of us lost
inside time’s matrices, repeating gestures:
scooping frogs that kept stranding themselves in the pool,
borrowing trinkets from the seabed’s floor.
Once, wandering the Flower Forest, the children
braceletted their arms and wrists with millipedes.
As if in a dream, my husband and I blindly saw
and smiled. Later when their fingertips flared,
we remembered we’d been given warnings to heed:
avoid the manchineel tree, with its poison apples,
its leaves weeping skin-blistering sap after rain.
Holding their hands, we smoothed ointment
on skin that glowed red for days,
marker of our narrow escape.
Shara McCallum is the author of three books of poems: The Water Between Us (1999), Song of Thieves (2003), and This Strange Land (forthcoming, 2011). Her New and Selected Poems will be published in 2011 by Peepal Tree Press. Originally from Jamaica, she lives with her family in central Pennsylvania, where she directs the Stadler Centre for Poetry and teaches creative writing and literature at Bucknell University.