Leave behind the lobby of the Ritz,
its wall of aquarium fish. Leave
the kidney shaped pool
necklaced by aqua Sunbrellas,
tiny triangles of spandex, ribs
oiled, skin made of glitter,
skewers of melon. Sweet palms
shading iguanas larger than lapdogs
and colonies of feral cats you sense by smell.
Leave it all for a convertible
and the threat of gators down Route 1
tying the islands to the ankle of Florida.
A highway string stretched taut
through the ocean dotted
with oddities, margarita stands, bait shops
selling key lime pie, flea markets
where you can feed the tarpon—
their large wet faces opening
over the hands holding the fish.
Shacks turned into bars cantilevered
out over the marshy canals, stilts
rotting green and jungled.
Stools topped with the leathered
absentmindedly smoking, lazy
grip on a Landshark, eyes unfocused
and blue next to tourists in tulip-
colored polos tucked into their shorts,
velcro sandals, mirrored sunglasses
on a strap around their fat necks.
While all the resort employees march
in their starched slacks past
bougainvillea toward the night shift.
Tiny deer chew black mangrove,
and acacia. Man-o-wars roil, trailing
poison. The ocean spreads like wings
with infinite span. The sky in your rearview
is a movie. It’s pink lemonade.
And when you close your eyes,
hands off the wheel, you don’t care
if you’re alive or dead
as long as it’s never-ending.
Whitney Hudak is a CNM and poet living in Newport, RI. She has work appearing or forthcoming in Pine Hills Review, Streetlight Magazine, and Hunger Mountain, among others, and is a Pushcart nominee. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and a DNP from Columbia University.