From the archives — We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists by Ira Sukrungruang

We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists

Except when the water receded and what lay there
were gape-mouthed fishes, flopping and gasping
on land that had not seen unfiltered sun

for millennia. We watched, at first,
seaweed, like the long, luscious hair of a mermaid
tangling their feet, and coral like polished

bone. We rushed out toward
the extended shore with wicker baskets to catch
the squiggling fishes, writhing in the heat.

And we were like them, those tourists, for a moment,
amazed at the world and oblivious to the hungry strays
dashing far from the beach, surrendering

the food offering of the sea. We were oblivious
to many things, the elephants that ignored
their handlers, as they made toward the highest

part of the island, the coming wave
that would take us all, sweeping us into the gullet
of the planet and into our next lives.

We remain behind, but hide in shadows.
Only the white faces haunt you, tourist-ghosts
lingering on the beach in bikinis and swim trunks

and sunglasses, wandering back and forth, confused
about the direction of the wind, their unheard voices,
the water that can never carry them home.

by Ira Sukrungruang

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 15, October 2009

photo by Ira Sukrungruang