Apr/May 2012 Poetry Special Feature

Bal Harbour Shops

by Jennifer Finstrom

Bal Harbour Shops

Miami, Florida

Riding the S bus south on Collins Avenue,
I'm ready to transfer to the Airport
Express. But I'm early and my flight
is in the evening. Now the sun is high
and I'm wearing the coat that I will need
when I get back to Chicago, standing out
among other passengers in shorts and flip flops.
I have already walked and eaten, stood looking
out at the ocean as a single pelican,
slow and prehistoric, sailed past. When the bus
stops at the Bal Harbour shops, I step off,
thinking of coffee and dessert, a place
to sit and read, a boundary between being here
and going home. The shops, forbidding,
boutiques with names I don't recognize,
are in an open courtyard lined with palms.
In a window, three mannequins are meant
to be wading, water lapping their ankles.
They are pale and remote, their sundresses
white and pleated. Seven smooth stones
rest in the water, heirlooms of a counterfeit ocean.
But now I find another pond, a real one
among the palms, rippling with the bright
movement of koi. When I lean over, the fish
approach, hoping that I will feed them,
and when I don't, they all drift away but one.
The koi that remains is mottled red and white.
It pushes its head through the surface of the water,
and I have never seen such expressive
eyes on a fish. Like the others, its mouth opens
and closes in a continuous "O," but this koi
seems to be forming a single word that
I can almost understand. I remain with that fish
for some time before leaving the pond,
suitcase in tow, to find my dessert in a bookstore café.
But before I leave to re-board my bus,
ready now to reach the airport, to return home,
I walk past the pond again because I promised
the red and white koi that I would come back.
And when I return, that fish is floating motionless
in the same corner, and while it appears
to look up slightly, it soon drifts away,
eyes passing over me without recognition.


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