Isla Providencia

Jun 3, 2014

From his final trip to Providencia
I asked my grandfather to bring back
a piece of the island, so he wrapped

a conch shell with three towels, deep
in his suitcase among plastic jars
jammed with stewed plums and orange rinds.

A gift of hidden sources—make of it what
you wish, he says, placing the common
Caribbean souvenir in my lap, leaving me

to imagine Henry Morgan discovering this shell,
cupping it over his right ear, swaying to the sirens’
cunning whistles, declaring Providencia his final

resting place. My grandfather tells me that a Lazy Hill
woman’s dying wish was for a conch shell to be laid
on her grave since she loved the mollusk’s tough muscle.

I pretend I am a Carib warrior, inserting my fingers
into the shell’s curved aperture, like Poseidon, wielding
this weapon above my head against British and Spanish.

How easy the turn to violence. The shell’s beige,
pink and ivory no longer protective covering,
but the blood and bone of pirates, Indians, slaves.

Sean Frederick Forbes is the director of the Creative Writing Program at UConn.