Mudlark No. 58 (2015)

A Philosophy of Florida

On the bookcase in the foyer sits a 6-inch painted sailfish, 
Istiophorus platypterus, a twist of body rising from a bronze 
spray of Ocean. The year we moved, I bought the keepsake 
as stocking-stuffer because, in the Sunshine State, Christmas
is a puzzle with pieces missing. I brought it home, gave it
to my wife, joking how I’d felt that hooked-fish sensation.
She put it on the bookcase; said it belonged in the light.
By then, her philosophy of Florida involved Beauty 
flaring at the boundaries of sight for miracle instants— 
to some, it’s about the splash of becoming the thing 
that shines along every blue, endangered inch of itself.
Most days, however, one’s aim is no higher than the sky 
at its lowest point. In the phone voice of a friend, I hear 
a struggle to solve that other puzzlework, being happy. 
She’s drunk, my friend; calling from Texas.  I hear crying, 
then laughing, since the dance she’s doing is a two-step.
She glides around that barroom need of hers to be 
of sole importance to one other. I hear a torch song; 
the singer plaintive, inconsolable. I hear what we all want,
for the whole love-me-do shebang to be new again—
as market-fresh, and thrilling, as it was in the 8th Grade:
slow-dancing on a gymnasium’s wood floor, so impossibly
close that you felt each staccato intake of adolescent breath
telegraph the thought that he’d walk you home, maybe 
kiss you on a dark porch, and you’d have that revelation
as a kind of souvenir. Tonight, pain is souvenir enough
and the leaves of a banana tree rake a front window—
noisy, like a sea of raised voices, and luminous.

Roy Bentley | Woman and Alligator
Contents | Mudlark No. 58 (2015)