Date: 5 Aug 1997 09:53:47 -0400

From: "Buckeye Bob" <>

Subject: pd4

To: "jan galligan" <>

More grist of Bob Buckeye in the Islands.4

chorus of roosters intensifying, brazen, insistent. My mouth dry. Lips bruised, throbbing, sluggish dull pulse. Tongue at tongue, tongue at. Afterwards, I felt her heart beat against my hand, felt my own against her back. Curly hair soft against my chest. I wanted, I want

Mira the roosters say. Mira. Look at me. Proud, demanding. In the afternoon, they root in the soil of gardens and cluck reluctantly like car engines turning over on a below zero day. Liz she had said. She was from Australia, Sydney, a Victorian colonial outpost that time had modernized. You can see it in the architecture, wicker furniture on hotel verandahs next to glass skyscrapers. Home of the Kiwi joke she smiled, world-weary

amused and I thought is there nothing that surprises her, nothing that stops her in her tracks. Gas gurgling in my abdomen, a tenderness radiating hotly on skin. She rubs her nose against my shoulder, stretches her legs. How we hurl ourselves wrapped around one another against blank days. For this night, assurance. This night, snug. What do you do? she had asked earlier sipping white wine, deep-set unblinking cobalt blue eyes on me. She was no Elizabeth. She knew that young. Beginnings I thought, when is the new day a beginning, when is the one we wake to unlike the rest. For a moment Liz had looked over my shoulder to the boats anchored in the bay. She twisted her napkin. Her face and arms were deeply tanned, the contrast between her tan, her eyes, and her pale pink lipstick electric. Down the main street in front of the Crow's Nest where we drank, two teenagers in a jeep with a rollbar cruised slowly, Bob Marley blaring from their tape deck. "Trenchtown Rock." At what point do beginnings become endings, the string played out, options exhausted? Or is the new day always the new day? The cries of roosters

summoning the day from the deepest darkness of night. Briefly Liz brushes her lips against my arm, shifts her body to the left and swings her right leg across my thighs. Sweat on our bodies, warm. Liz did not care for those who are always surprised by what happens. She saw it as a way to avoid seeing the world the way it is. So you'll find someone while you're down there. Spend a few days with her. Come back ready to face, what shall we call it? Life Ken had said in Middlebury at The Alibi a few nights before I flew out. He brushed his unruly hair back from his forehead, raised his scotch glass to his mouth. And then what? In a few months? His eyes large, dark, quizzical through thick lenses. Restless eyes. Don't get me wrong. The Marley guitar echoing in my head, its beat repeated, the music driving. How much history, Greil Marcus writes, can pressure on a guitar string bring, how much life. In the bar earlier, Liz had examined my face. Cobalt blue cool like gemstones. Survival said the music,

redemption. This woman did not fool herself. She knew there was none. What do I do? In a small college town miles from anywhere? Middlebury? Isn't that in Vermont? Liz had run fingers down the stem of her wine glass, eyes veiled. You must ski. Mirror surface of Champlain, cries of geese, darkly-etched mountains against the sunset an evening years ago. For a long moment Leni was held by the tableau the evening held in its hand. Then she turned to me and smiled, delighted. The evening was a gift. I never know how to measure things Leni had said, but I know this. Hands outstretched framing the sky. This does not last. For a moment she closed her eyes and listened with lips parted to the sounds of the dying day. Then she turned towards me, her eyes upon me in a way I did not understand,

the pupils dark, luminous. But it will never go away. Mornings in Vieques dawned lavender and silver, the bay calm, empty of fishing boats. Yesterday just after dawn I saw a man shuffle along the brick boardwalk separating the main street of Esperanza from its playa. Shock of unruly white hair against burnished dark skin. At one point he stopped but not to look at anything. He wiped his brow and looked down at his feet. How he

Today is Friday. Thursday yesterday. Wednesday the day before. Liz's hair against my skin, the shape of her earlobe to my fingers, the angle of her jaw, cheek. How earlier I lowered my head to her breast, flicked my tongue against her nipple, took it into my mouth, the nipple swelling, hardening, and I began to suck it, pulling it deeper into my mouth, her hand against the back of my head pulling me towards her, her breathing becoming heavier. Brilliant oranges and reds of plants and bushes outside the window here in Esperanza. The sun bright by midmorning. Liz rubs her cheek against my arm, scratches the bridge of her nose. No es tranquilo,

no es aburrido. Evenings in Vieques ended in the babel of competing radios and loudspeakers in the night, across fences and back yards, beisbol and Jesus insinuating themselves into windows. Fundamentalist sects singing and dancing. Repent, repent, before it's too late. Hoarse, scratchy loudspeakers on roofs. He scores, he scores. At the Crow's Nest earlier in the evening, I felt how knotted my back was, a tightness across my chest, and I thought you have to do something about this, this has to stop, something has to change. Liz's hand twitches momentarily on my abdomen and then rubs itself against it. As if it had a life its own, her hand touches my penis briefly and settles between my legs. Softly she sighs. As if this were sufficient, as if

Liz had put her hand on my cheek after we had come into the room, her shoulder touching my shoulder. Then she reached for my hand and ran her fingers lightly across my palm, down each finger, traced prominent veins. I like the dark she had said. She put her head on my shoulder. Wait. She touched her lips to the large artery pulsating in my neck. Feel it. Silken brush of her fingers around my forefinger, quivering lips cool against my hot neck. The darkness we had come into

that we had dropped through. As the publico came into Esperanza on my arrival, four boys bareback on palomino horses rushed by. Clatter of hoofs, serious, intent faces. I trace her lips with a finger, touch her cheek, the skin dry from months of tropical sun. What does anyone do? I had answered Liz in the bar. I turned my head from my window seat of the publico and they were gone. If there is one thing I want you to learn my father had said. He rubbed his hand against the arm of the chair next to the front window at home, his eyes caught by something through the window. One thing you need to know. For a moment he looked at me and then examined his fingers. This morning I had looked out upon calm water, upon the pier extending into the bay that was used a half century ago to load sugar cane onto cargo ships, upon two emerald islands with steep valleys that a land bridge permitted you to walk to at low tide. Two fishermen folded their nets down the beach, their day's work done by nine a.m. Egrets darted across the sand,

pelicans floated on swells. I know you want something more Ken had continued, looking down the bar to Joe, the Portugese fisherman who wintered at The Alibi or so it seemed, to Michael, the owner, behind the bar in conversation with Joe. It's not just an escape from winter is it? To get away from your life for awhile? He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes wearily. He had lived too long wanting too much from life, lived too long too hard on himself. Behind us, laughter and a shrill, delighted woman's cry. Midnight at The Alibi, the evening just beginning. But what do you expect to bring back? A middle-aged white woman, her skin darkly tanned, walked by, dropped her towel on the beach and entered the water. I sipped a cafe con leche and watched her swim towards the nearest island, her head growing smaller and smaller in the distance. It's all a house of cards. We know that. But can we find a way to live? Ken turned to see who was here this evening. The thing is work, work, work. How's that for a gratuitous kick in the face? Overhead footsteps cross the room above and for a moment stop before returning across the ceiling,

even, sure. Why are you here? I had asked Liz. How does one get from Sydney to Vieques? Across the street, a prostitute who could be no more than a teenager leaned against the cement wall of the promenade the town had built after Hurricane Hugo struck. Her dress a kind of skin. For a moment Liz fingered a bead necklace she wore over her tee shirt and followed my glance to the teenager across the way and then motioned with her eyes to the bartender. You've got to be honest my father had said. He rubbed his hand against the arm of the chair. His eyes did not meet mine. He looked out the window and followed Mrs. Krajci's slow, tentative progress down the street. Then he turned towards me but his glance fell to the side of me. In Mrs. Krajci's aged, infirm body he read his own. Understand? It's the only way. His deep blue eyes upon me, a question in them. He picked up The Plain Dealer and turned to the sports pages. For a long moment I looked at him. It was not his way. He never told the boss what he thought, because he was always afraid he would lose his job if he did, and then what would he do? He never told anyone what his marriage was like, could not speak to his wife, say she did not treat him well, we never speak to one another. He would smile, nod, agree, say nothing. Momentarily Liz's eyelids twitched. Her hand settles deeper between my thighs, her leg curling more tightly around my thighs. An abrupt sound like a moan escapes her parted lips. What's this? Liz had smiled as if she knew something I did not. I left Sydney because I wanted to. There's more to the world than Sydney. She gestured to the bartender once more for another white wine. Have you ever gone back to the place you were born? With a finger she sketched a pattern on the place mat. I have. They hate me. Once again she smiled in a way I did not understand. And I hate them. She finger her bead necklace,

ran a finger around the lip of her wine glass. Vieques? One finds one way to Vieques. She examined me, her eyes wide, her lip curled slightly with judgment. I found my way to Vieques because I wanted to find my way to Vieques her look says. What if I were to ask you how you got to Vieques? What kind of question is that? She ran the palm of a hand along the surface of the table. You don't have to worry about speaking Spanish Lillian had said. The Americans you'll meet are not tourists. They live there. The deeply-tanned woman who had completed her swim to the island and back came out of the water and toweled herself off. To my right, the beach extended towards a mansion on a cliff on the south edge of Esperanza. White foam at the base of the cliff from waves breaking against the rocks. Beyond the mansion, rolling hills, and beyond the hills,

US marines, the navy, military land, which Viequans squat on every year in an effort to reclaim their land. The swimmer got into her Jeep Cherokee and drove away. Leni sends Christmas cards with photos of her daughter. What do you think of this? Lillian had asked. Pinned on the wall of her studio a large map of the city of Detroit over which she had painted a young black male with a rose in his mouth. The longer one looked the more the rose seemed like blood blooming out of his mouth. Only if there can be surprise can there be discovery I thought, and nothing surprises Liz, nothing. The teenagers in their jeep cruised back by us. The prostitute had moved ten yards farther down the promenade. Leni found something new in the everyday, delight in the unexpected. "Everywhere there's war,"

I heard Marley sing. My eyes raw, taste of bourbon still in my mouth, the arch of one foot cramping. The dream I need to wake from. The one that keeps me asleep. I stretch my legs, straighten the foot, and Liz's hand slips from between my legs and comes to rest against the outside of my thigh. She rubs her nose against my shoulder. The softness of her curly hair against my fingers. Muscles in my lower back aching. The first morning on the beach, Liz had come down in a group of six. She had long slender legs, blond hair cut close to her head, a dark blue bikini. The men said things to impress her, the women waited for her answers. She pushed her sunglasses back on her nose. Water glinted in morning sun. I put my book down, sipped bitter, acrid coffee. Dale and Gwen, who are from Cape Cod and here to buy something, a guest house, a restaurant, land, in which they might turn a fast buck while enjoying the life of the dropout, stopped to ask me if I've heard anything about the Gulf war, and I told them some days The San Juan Star doesn't arrive at all at the Colmado Lydia, and I can't make enough sense of El Dia to say, but there was a demonstration last week in San Juan, at Fort Buchanan, before I came over to Vieques. I smiled, gestured, nodded,

heard the sound of my voice, theirs. I knew I suppose. "The paths," Walter Benjamin writes, "that lead us again and again to the friend, the betrayer, the beloved, the pupil, or the master." Morning sun beat down, water sparkled. In my room, Liz had pulled her tee shirt over head indifferently as if this were something she did ever day, her breasts springing free, nipples erect, dark, shrugged her levis down her legs, stepped out of nylon briefs. Are there words for this? I told Dale and Gwen about my discussion the day before with the owner of 18 Degrees North, who said, Nuke them. Nuke those goddam Arabs to hell. How come so many Viequans, particularly reservist medical doctors, had been called up he wondered. They don't take reservist doctors from San Juan. Nearby, a deeply-tanned middle-aged man with a soccer ball gut, thinning white hair cut in a crewcut, talked animatedly on a cellular phone. Multi-colored flowered shirt open to the waist, speedo trunks, leather-thong sandals. They don't take reservist doctors from Scarsdale either I had told the owner of the gift shop. Dale is in his forties and next week he is getting divorced, is worried his wife will get the house in the settlement. Gwen is in her twenties and an environmental major at the University of Rhode Island. Middlebury she says to me, a friend tells me I should have gone to Middlebury. Day lightening night,

dark shapes in the room becoming dressers, nightables, chairs. Keep your pants on Gary advised me at the bar yesterday. I came here six years ago for two weeks and saw this blonde in a bar down the street. He took a drink from his Bud. His face flushed, sweating. My pants dropped as if someone next to me had pulled them down. He looked at me to see if he knew who I was. A devil. A blonde devil. He got up and put a hand against the bar to steady himself before pointing himself to the john. A vet. And how did I find out about Vieques? Liz had been less curious than polite. Across the street Fuera la marina had been spray-painted in black over a sign with rules for use of the public playa. Breath of a late evening breeze from across the bay. A deep, soft murmuring sound, leaves rustling. What Liz seeks from life has nothing to do with this talk. Vieques? I had smiled broadly, touched my moustache. At the bar, a stocky, dark-skinned man in a tee-shirt with a reproduction of the island of Vieques on the front and bermuda shorts drank Medallo and said nothing. From time to time he examined people in the bar or those walking by along the town promenade. Several times he laughed loudly. One finds one's way here. Two evenings ago I had leaned against a fence outside the guest house and tried to bring up liquor and food. I felt a burning-hot tomato-like liquid rush into my mouth but nothing came out. My forehead damp, stomach queasy, the world turning. I opened my mouth

and stuck a finger into my throat. You find them on sides of buildings, fences and walls, sidewalks, even boulders. Fuera la Marina. Leave, Navy. Leave. The bartender put down a glass of wine for Liz and I raised my empty glass of bourbon. Lo mismo. You came on to me from the beginning Liz had said after we made love. You undressed me with your eyes. Liz rubs her nose against my shoulder, removes her hand from my thigh and puts an arm across my chest. Her mouth opens, her breath gentle against my skin. Her buttocks smooth, firm, but the flesh of her thighs is slack, soft, wet with sweat, wisps of hair plastered against her skin. She had been so wet. Thighs, white, soft, yielding. Her hips had arched upwards to my tongue. My finger found her anus and probed

and her sphincter muscles began to contract around it. Beds, John Berger writes, "Beds promise more than any other man-made object." Liz touches my thigh, her fingers silken. Briefly her lips press against my arm, linger. Yesterday afternoon on my way back to my guest house, I found myself among a half-dozen schoolgirls in blue pinafore uniforms on recess, and they laughed at sight of me, a gringo so far afield, so oddly dressed, wearing the panama hat only viejos wear in the islands, swim trunks, barefoot, book in hand, notebook, and I laughed with them, si, es loco. Loud, shrill, the cries of roosters. Liz brushes my shoulder with a kiss and raises her head off of it, her right arm slipping off my chest. Honey, I have to pee she says. Whisper of sheet

as she gets up from the bed. On Friday evenings, Liz had said, families stroll along the promenade, there, across the street, play with their children, look at the sunset. Friends will drift over from bodegas, Medallos in hand, put their arms around friends, greet wives, playfully punch boys on the arms. For a moment she looked at the teenage prostitute across the street who leaned heavily against the cement wall of the promenade, the makeup she wore a mask. During the week sometimes I sit here and watch the viejos catch evening breezes from the bay on those benches there. Liz raised her glass to her lips, her brow furrowed. Sometimes I think what they must think. She rubbed her nose and then examined her fingers. But it makes no difference. Liz sits at the edge of the bed and lifts a leg to brush dirt or particles from the bottom of her foot which she might have picked up in her walk to the bathroom. The back of her neck is hot and soft hair curls at the nape of her head. My lips against her neck. Her body a country for my voice

Copyright: Robert Buckeye,1999
and Jan Galligan Jan Galligan c/o Sprynet
All Rights Reserved
Last modified Dec 10, 1999