Mary Lou Sanelli



The sun was hot, the wind calm, the sea
spectacularly blue.

I am not a tourist on this island
drawn to the center of action,
the center stage where hula dancers sway.

I’ve come for the edges, a rocky rim
over a black sand beach, colossal leaves
cupping tiny red fruit.

And to meet my friend’s fiancee

who cuts three mangos down with a knife
(“a man with a knife instead of an iPhone?”
I whispered to Amira, “how manly is this?”)
and, minutes later, sitting cross-legged on sand,
we tore through the reddish-green skin,
juice dripping down our arms.

We swam and walked and swam
some more and I don’t remember every detail
about our sun drenched afternoon
but I do remember how the wind came up
and blew the lid off Kaila’s cooler,
the sand sharp as glass against our cheeks,
and how Amira’s face remained calm,
unfazed, and I remember thinking
she looked a decade younger than the year before
and how this seemed perfectly natural
and fitting.

I remember she smelled of coconut oil
and Kaila smelled of beer, his breath yeasty.

I remember Kaila running up to the truck, opening the door for us.
I remember his strong, hairy forearm held Amira close.
I remember Amira winked, reached for the top of my hand
to give a little squeeze, huge
in meaning, though.

I remember she mouthed the word, lovebirds.

And, oh, how I wanted to believe in that word.
I wanted to believe that Amira may have fallen,
but Alika had caught her. I wanted to believe
he was a man capable of such a catch.

I stared at the two of them. I pretended not to.
I stared some more.

I had this thought that things were going to turn out
“just fine.”

If “just fine” was a man dressed in board shorts and slippahs,
who cared what happened to Amira,
who would give her a sense of home in his little house in Kailua.

I hoped for a man who would not just open our door
but his—I am looking for a better word here, but there is none—heart.

Naturally I heard every other thing I said to myself: “Alika?
Don’t kid yourself. Men like him open only their zippahs.
Don’t let his adorable cottage draped in bougainvillea
fool you otherwise.”

I countered: “Mainland pessimist!
I am fed up listening to you.”

I remember after that exchange
there was a somewhat strained atmosphere in the truck.

If only in my seat.


Mary Lou Sanelli is  the author of seven poetry collections and a recent book of essays,Falling Awake, selected as “one of the most fabulous 2008 Northwest titles” by Seattle writer/reviewer Lesley Thomas. Among FriendsA Memoir was a bookclub choice throughout the country. She is a regular columnist in City Living Magazine for Seattle’s Pacific Publishing Newspapers, as well as for Art Access Magazine, and her commentaries have been aired on Weekend Edition and NPR. She presents her staged reading of her book of the same name, The Immigrant’s Table, throughout the country.


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