Peter Chapman Poetry

In Florida

We had a big storm last night which I slept through. Mom heard the thunder and lashing rain, I never did. Today the workers continue spreading mulch around the trees and in close to the buildings. The golfers will be back out, if it clears. We enjoy the herd of pecking ibis that works its hungry way along the hedgerow separating the golf course from the backyards. The nice way the lace curtain fills and blows into my room at night as I sleep made me want to write this. Florida is so dry there's a constant threat of fire and fines are imposed in some areas if you're caught washing your car or watering your grass the wrong days. My room is in the back, near the kitchen, with a window onto one of the lanais, so any little breeze comes through the porch screens first, up the walk from the parking lot and the big ferns and like that. It's never strong enough to rattle the blind. I don't hear the curtain move as, apparently, I sleep through every storm.

"Oh my Lord, Peter, look at all the ibis," I heard Mom just say. "Ten, eleven, twelve—thirteen ibis." And there they are, bright white birds pecking their long curved beaks into the glistening coarse grass resorts grow here. Seeing Florida soaked in the morning is a happy sight indeed.

By Mom's chair, an old vinyl recliner in our rental, upturned basket for her table, a pink flyer for Beach Seafood, crinkled from her drink glass, and the recipes she scribbles from the Food Channel shows.

Outside, the little gekkoes scurry along sidewalks, up the house and garage walls, up sprinkler heads. One tends, it seems, to see them moving on things man has put here, not even on the broad plant leaves which man also has settled. In the sidewalk coming into our lanai, the imprint of a gekko. The intaglio of what one assumes to have been his corpse is arresting for its liveliness: a small lizard frozen in a near yawning, laughing leap into the sucking wet bond to nowhere.


She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It's six-thirty in the morning
and she's standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she's trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it, the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn't making
because it wasn't there.

No one, including me especially, anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving,
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands on the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth with the nail in it.