Make Them Float in Your Mouth – Iris Jamahl Dunkle

On the cruise of the Snark, Jack London, and his wife Charmian sailed to Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and the Solomon Islands and ended on the Island of Guadacanal, where ill health forced Jack to sail commercially to Sydney, Australia for surgery and treatment of a skin problem feared to be Leprosy.

If you want a story, you have to look for it.  You have to begin
with the idea of seven years.  You have to imagine a boat.

You have to build it from paper and ideas.  You have to sail
your leaky boat into the hissing lava as it enters the sea.

You have to reach your first destination and ride
a 75-pound surfboard until you fail all day.  You have to watch

the plantation workers cleave the sweet fruit with machete again and again.
Until the story you’ve told yourself begins to stutter and spit.

You have to go to Molokai on the 4th of July and see for yourself
the small girl who, missing a nose or an arm and covered with sores,

wears sequined clothes and joyfully dances. You have to sail on
past empty pockets and bank accounts.

You have to watch your itinerary dissolve in the water
next to the Australian yacht converted for black birding.
You have to see the machete lines carved into the teak door.

You have to lose all of your water and then be blessed with a storm.
You have to endure sores the size of baseballs that seep and cling to your calves
and thighs. You have to go up river into the luscious green tangle

of what is unknown until the flowers emerge: red, hibiscus-like
large enough to contain the whole sunset syrupy sky.

You have to find that island.  Make it float in your mouth.

iris dunkleIris Jamahl Dunkle is the Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA. Her second poetry collection, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air, was published in 2015. Her debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, was selected by Ross Gay for the 2012 Trio Award and was published by Trio House Press in 2013. Her chapbooks Inheritance and The Flying Trolley were published by Finishing Line Press in 2010 and 2013. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College.