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Syndic Literary Journal

Poetry by Elaine Elinson

Valentine’s Day, Guimaras Island

by Elaine Elinson


Vendors crowd the rickety pier at dawn, guarding

Black streaked pots of savory boiling batchoy, single cigarettes in glass jars, sacks of sugar, stacks of bamboo poles, beer in plastic bags.

I take your hand and grasp the spindly hemp banister, walk down the single plank over the dark, oily water

To the pump boat painted blue, red and green, piled high with wooden barrels, burlap bags, an ice cart, baskets of round green watermelons and passengers anxious to be on their way.

The sinewy boatman pushes us off and we fly through the Iloilo strait to green Guimaras Island.

A tiny outrigger bangka takes us to Enrico Beach, leaning coconut palms line the coral shore, welcome us royally into their swishing arcade.

Women with red-checked aprons stoke charcoal fires, stir vats of fragrant tamarind broth, awaiting the fishermen.

You find me miniature conch shells embroidered in intricate patterns of brown and black and white, hand them to me like jewels, as tiny crabs scuttle from under our bare feet

We wash away the sweat of the journey in the clear lagoon, you hold me in your arms so the jagged coral floor won’t cut my soles.

Fish nibble at our calves. I nibble at your toffee neck.

We climb a stone staircase, slippery with vine and seaweed, holding on to the bamboo banister and each other

Accompanied by darting iridescent butterflies and fragrant frangipani petals.

At the summit we watch the blue of the sky melt into the blue of the sea, framed by whispering palm fronds

Back on the beach, we shower with water from a mountain spring in an open-roofed wooden hut, you alone in the Men Only side, I with three giggling teens in the side for Women Only.

I pour clear water on my hair from a Shell gas can, brush sand from my ankles.

A fisherman wades to our spot on the beach holding a writhing silver tanguigue,

You make a fair trade and ask a woman on the beach to cook it in ginger soup.

On a bamboo perch under a thatched nipa roof, we eat elegantly from the steaming bowls,

Licking the spice and salt water from our fingers, watching the blue-and-white striped sails glide over the lagoon.

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