Earthly Paradise

Anne Whitehouse
“…in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.”
                        Shakespeare, The Tempest, III, ii, 140-3.
A waterfall for every day of the year
and the water so clean I could drink
from everywhere I saw it flowing.
Mountains and ravines, a tangle
of vegetation, blue and green.

Night and day the surf beat
against the rocky shores,
and the forest was full of sounds—
leaves rustling and the sweet song
of the mountain nightingale,
an elusive bird nesting
in the hollow trunks of trees.

In the lowlands, near the river,
grapefruit hung from the trees
like golden suns,
and a young woman,
her skirt hiked above her knees,
bare-breasted, stood in the shallow river
where it ran over rocks,
washing her clothes.

It could have been a scene
from a pastoral idyll of long ago—
that perhaps never existed,
a dream of someone’s life.

Into that life came a storm
that took everything away.
The woman I’d seen placidly washing
her clothes in a green dream
lost the blue house on the hillside
built by her husband—
all they had worked and strived for
washed away in the mudslide
after the hurricane,
when two months of rain
fell in a single day.  

Anne Whitehouse is pleased to appear in riverbabble once again. Her sixth poetry collection, Meteor Shower, is forthcoming from Dos Madres Press this year. Recent prizes and awards include the Songs of Eretz poetry award, the Common Good Books’ poems of gratitude competition, and Loudoun County Public Library’s RhymeOn! poetry competition, all in 2016. Her novel, Fall Love, is appearing in Spanish translation as Amigos y amantes from Mundi Books Ediciones.

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