— Pegatha Hughes
On the Baruda Explorer in Flores, Indonesia,
the night they came on board with guitars,
we sat watching an old coin
pull free of inky cloud and
spill its light on the India Sea.
I told you I wept for my sister
who died at twenty-five, so long ago.
You said you missed your daughter.
She died in surgery at twenty-four.
Later her spirit found you on the beach.
“Follow your art, Mama,” she urged
and you returned to your studio.
We wished they could have seen
the Barong on Bali as it was danced that morning
and shared our welcome to a mountain village
by women in blue satin blouses.
You puffed on a gift of tobacco
lit with a spark struck by the chief.
When you needed a longer piece of ikat,
a weaver sold you the skirt she had worn.
Your face was a gamelon orchestra of smiles.
In this land that welcomes us so warmly
even our departed return,
a Saturday night crowd gathered dockside
to hear our American songs.
Two crossed over and sang so softly
we barely heard their unmistakable voices.