On the rocks

Camille T. Dungy is author of Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010) and
What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), editor of
Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009) and co-
editor of
From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate,
Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great
(Persea, 2009).
I said, the cruise line said we might see Wandering Albatross. I said, they said we could walk through penguin rookeries. I said, we might see at least four species of seal. What do you have against traveling where black people are? she said. That’s not my idea of a nice trip, she said. My friend said, give me pink coral sand and a Mai Tai. Give me so hot men wear nothing but swim trunks, she said. Give me hot men. She said, all those days out there with nothing to do? She said, no bowling? no movies? no shops? I said, they said we would have a chance to kayak. She said I said the Drake Passage was notorious for bad conditions. I said that was true. I said, however, we’d be further south by then, in the protected bays where the Southern Ocean meets the most southerly continent. She said, oh. I said I thought if I paddled far enough from the ship I might hear icebergs melting. I said, they said we could hear gas escaping from the ice. I said, they said it would sound a bit like a soda can being slowly opened. I said I thought it would sound like what it might sound like to find myself paddling through a giant high ball of vodka on the rocks, the can of tonic being opened, everything I needed right there. You wouldn’t catch me out there, she said, floating with nothing but a life vest and a kayak. I said, quiet. I want to hear what quiet really sounds like.