(The 2nd and 3rd lines of each stanza are read rapidly.)
Smiles are bright on brown faces I have known, eyes crinkled against the sun;
Home is a shack with thatch for a roof and a barrel that caches the rain as it runs;
An old woman sifts rice in the shade of acacia as her husband and sons fish from a boat
not far from an island littered by war where the great guns and towers stand silent and rust.
Her face worn and weathered from a long life of labor she’s known since she took her first step.
Her hair is just graying, her teeth are not white, she brushes away a wisp of hair as I draw nigh;
The palm trees are tall and sway in the breeze and the dust that blows in from the bay;
The long hot walk down from the tricycle taxi and the bus on the highway that serves as a link to a
world that seems worlds away from the life that she lives with husband and sons and daughter.
Her careworn manner belied by a pride in appearing without wrinkle or gray.
She offers me greetings from her seat in the shade, I see youth in her eyes, a beauty that’s never abated;
I sense that once she wore fine-patterned lace and danced to the moon with abandon and grace;
Eyes closed to the feel of deepening joy she whirls and spins to the music inside as the people make way
and she moves to the song on her lips and vibration and thrill of the sound that surrounds her.
She smiles at me then and walks toward the house and bids me come in through the gate.
Mindful of custom I step from my shoes, dusty and worn from the walk, I place them beside the door;
Her home isn’t large, the ground laid with palm to cover the sand hard-packed for a floor;
The furnishings sparse and arranged with a care that tenders a message that poor is not gloom and people
with little are not people in need but are happy and used to their way.
Over my head a platform for sleep, a sink and a tap, and a bare pipe for water that drips through the day.
The old woman’s daughter walks gracefully in, rice on the tray in her hands, we sup on fish from the bay;
The townsfolk walk out after dinner at home to stroll ‘round the town as the sun slips away into dusk;
The girls are lovely in long flowing dresses with bright pretty flowers and smiles on their faces while walking about hands clasped and laughing their coy glances searching for beaus.
The people walk slowly the damp air oppressive, the strengthening breeze blows hot in the night.