To Ulf Linde

Dear savages, though I’ve never mastered your tongue, free of pronouns
and gerunds,
I’ve learned to bake mackerel wrapped in palm leaves and favor raw turtle legs,
with their flavor of slowness. Gastronomically, I must admit, these years
since I was washed ashore here have been a non-stop journey,
and in the end I don’t know where I am. After all, one keeps carving notches only
so long as nobody apes one. While you started aping me even before I
you. Look what you’ve done to the trees! Though it’s flattering to be regarded
even by you as a god, I, in turn, aped you somewhat, especially with your maidens
—in part to obscure the past, with its ill-fated ship, but also to cloud the future,
devoid of a pregnant sail. Islands are cruel enemies
of tenses, except for the present one. And shipwrecks are but flights from grammar
into pure causality. Look what life without mirrors does
to pronouns, not to mention one’s features! Perhaps your ancestors also
ended up on this wonderful beach in a fashion similar
to mine. Hence, your attitude toward me. In your eyes, I am
at the very least an island within an island. And anyhow, watching my every step,
you know that I am not longing for the past participle or the past continuous
—well, not any more than for that future perfect of yours deep in some humid cave,
decked out in dry kelp and feathers. I write this with my index finger
on the wet, glassy sand at sunset, being inspired perhaps
by the view of the palm-tree tops splayed against the platinum sky like some
Chinese characters. Though I’ve never studied the language. Besides,
the breeze
tousles them all too fast for one to make out the message.

This Issue

July 14, 1994