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How They Brought the News From Paradise
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I was at the Paradise Bar
a grass hut on wooden stilts
its leafy canopy shading me from the sun
at the shallow end of the pool.
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Floating on my back
I stared up at a mural
of Adam and Eve above the bar
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(a fitting pair
if not a little worse for wear)
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my drink in hand
its ice a musical clink
against the glass
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the world a fine place to be
a cornucopia of all...
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my vacation before me
a lazy sweetness of days
stretching into infinity.
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At the Paradise Bar
in the Saint Regis hotel
pride of the Caribbean
head of its class
is where I first heard
the terrible news.
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A whispered warning at first
from Dave the bartender
(a Tree of Life stenciled on his shirt)
then down the bar
a waitress's angry hiss,
"We're out of rum."
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"Out of rum!"
This could not be so
in the best resort in the Caribbean
the best rooms
the best service
the top of the line...
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and I, an innocent tourist,
a witness to the crime.
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No rum?
For true drinkers
there is no better dose
to calm your nerves
or still your fear
or hold your passions close...
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In times of stress,
or when the good in life
is hard to see
give me a Zombie
or a Pink Lady
or a Long Island Iced Tea.
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No, this lapse, this tragedy, could not stand
on the island of Barbados
so far from Paterson, New Jersey
my distant homeland.
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Call it foolhardy
call it a sacrifice
but at that moment a higher claim
came to mind, a religious calling
almost divine....
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I would bring the news...
I would swim from the Paradise
through the resort's three inter-connected pools
to the waiters' station at the end...
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The Concierge was always there
walkie-talkie in hand
dispensing sage advice
and quick, imperious commands...
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He would hear the news
when I came down
and save us from our terrible fate...
or I would drown.
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Now the hero
I raised my hand
(the other dangling
in the tepid water)
"David, I will go," I cried.
"I will bring the news!"
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Not waiting for his reply
(was that a startled look he gave me?
did the waitress laugh behind my back?)
I turned and swam
to the deeper end...
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through dip and turn
past cascading waterfalls
and ivy covered urns
past sunbathers basking in the sun
toward the next pool:
the Pirate's Cove.
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But about my wife...
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My wife of twenty years
my companion through thick and thin — 
(more thin than thick
judging by the recent gravy)
but settled into a steady marriage
a daily measure
although the gravy
as I said,
was a little more than wavy...
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She waited in the room
snuggled with a romance novel
and her anxiety pills
longing for imaginary heroes
true lovers surviving the great divide
in the push and pull
of life's restless tides.
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More on her later.
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The Paradise Bar was a distant
strum of harp
while overhead, the sun, a burning lens
burnt my head
as tourists' sandaled feet shuffled by
their murmuring voices a pleasant buzz...
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a tickle of the good life
foie gras, holidays in Nice, lobster thermidor,
champagne in crystal glasses
and fancy cigars in humidors...
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I swam, and up ahead
I saw the Pirate's Cove
a wrecked ship
its wooden stern and polished gunwales
jutting from the water.
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A skull and crossbones fluttered
over a long, wooden plank
 — the bar — 
with its beer taps, shot glasses
and alcoholic ballast.
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"Is rum so important?" I thought.
"Am I so selfish as to fill my cup
where so many others have run dry?"
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"Ahoy!" I cried
and slammed my empty glass
on the plank.
"A Piña Colada, please."
(was this my fourth or fifth?)
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The bartender mixed the brew
added a pineapple wedge
and a pink umbrella.
He slid the glass oh-so-prettily
its anchor-shaped ice ever so glittery
into my waiting hand.
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"You know they're out of rum in Paradise?" I said.
"That's bad," the bartender replied
(adjusting the black patch on his eye)
"I'd send some up, but we're low here, too."
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A pirate low on rum? I thought.
What charade is this?
What senseless dent in the old mythologies?
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He rang the ship's bell
not for tips
(none were allowed in this five-star resort
not with the pre-paid plan)
but a call to other pirates:
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come quick
come see this human crab
who pretends to know himself.
See his wrinkled skin?
See him in his knobby shell?
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Pity the poor crab
who calls himself a man
his scuttling race is over
before his race began.
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I took my drink and fled
my legs churning in the water
the heat of shame along my neck...
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my news,
no news at all — 
what tourist like me
has the right to speak
at a pirate's wreck?
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I swam past the hot tub and towel dispensary
down a narrow channel
of racing water
into a gushing, plastic artery...
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My god, my Piña Colada!
I drank it down before the sluice
swept me off my feet
and tumbled me empty-handed
into the foamy deep.
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I saw the sun, a distant sparkle
its rays reflected
by plastic seaweed
floating on the water...
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Silence took all
and in the milky blue
a mermaid sang — 
of romance
glasses of prosecco
and lovers lost — 
my wife lying
with her books
no children, we both decided
no babies underfoot...
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What of our weary vows?
(the mermaid asked)
The tedious banal?
The opportunities in life we missed?
Had our love been only a stolen kiss?
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I broke the surface...
Took a deep breath...
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And saw the mermaid
a life-size plastic model
a mechanical thing with pouty red lips
her tangled golden hair streaming
over her fingertips.
Her plastic tail beat like a feeble heart
against the pool's marble edge...
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The bar's name
"The Ocean Grotto"
was inlaid in mussel shells
on the wall above
the mermaid's head.
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The bartender was a blonde
in a mermaid tail
and wearing a diver's belt.
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"A Brass Monkey," I said.
The barmaid's tail splashed
(if only my wife had a tail like that!)
as she mixed my drink
and added a tiny plastic mermaid
on a swizzle stick.
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"By the way,"
(I had learned my lesson
and made myself appear in place,
a tourist with voting rights in this working space)
"Did you hear the news?"
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"What's that?"
She pulled a knife from her diver's belt
and sliced a lime in half.
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"They're out of rum in Paradise."
"Ahh," she said
like ahh was yes or no
"They're desperate," I added. "There's going to be a riot."
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As she cut the lime
I saw her toes poking from her plastic tail
the brown roots in her hair.
Her disguise was torn away — 
she did not care!
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I downed my drink
and gave her the empty glass.
She took it without seeing me:
a man with a paunch
a ridiculous thirst
and thinning hair.
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My stroke was heavy
as I swam away
the sun
a bloody dot
on the horizon...
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The next bar was closed
(what comedy was this?)
the "Gold Doubloon" dark
and hidden under a plastic tarp...
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I went on
in shallow water now
with sharp pebbles under my feet
past the pool chairs stacked against a wall
past the laundry room
and the towel boy's empty seat.
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The pool thinned to a narrow corridor
where the sun was lost
my path in shadow
as I sloshed past shut and bolted doors...
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I bumped against an iron grate.
Behind it, a filter pump
wheezed and gasped
as it sucked in the pool water,
and dealt it a cleaner fate.
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The grate was locked
no waiters' station here,
no Concierge at the helm
just me, the pump,
and the water's gurgling flow.
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Too late
I envied my wife
safe with her romantic tales
where love is a constant comfort
and lovers never fail...
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Where couples know their parts and don't pretend
and give thanks for who they are
and share their lives
a love without regret
a love driven by human tides.
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Now I knew — 
for me, the path was lost
the news had not been told...
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The rum had run out,
and I was the last to know.
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CREDITS


SPUN BY   ALAN BIGELOW


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