When did the blue sea creep into
their veins and the distances stretch
Did they feel the ocean
breathing for them under the murmur
of their English rites? A slow shift
and pull at the heart’s compass?
Soon their mouths knew the rough
taste of prickly pears
and wild honey; their ears the crackle
and slat of palmettos on a rising wind,
the small thud of bay grapes
And their minds learned the code:
of seasons and migrations, of omens
brought by birds, and luck
that came with storms.
And at some point they knew
their course would always turn
toward the scent
of cedar, and home.
•••Jane Downing works at the National Museum of Bermuda.