Effigy

To those who must roam in peril.

She learned her art amongst her sisters. The Sea Gypsies.
Whose romance with the waters ended with state-sponsored wars. Down south.
It was the flares of strafing bullets that took away their men. In the night.
The dancing lines of fire across the waters. Sparks on their fishing spears.

They took apart the boats that spared from bombing. Turned them into caravans.
They fell the colourful sails that adorned the sea horizon. Turned them into tents.
They conjured fires with sticks and stones. Danced the flames on their spears.
Those become the staple of their next exile. On dry land.

Once in a while they lose one or two of their daughters. To sickness or war.
Or other circumstance. They singe their children to take their place.
Like the old men who ruptured their ears when they were young. When the sea was theirs.
That made them extraordinary human fishes. Now extraordinary flaming effigies.

So while their fires leapt from their mouths to their spears. They lost her.
As they plied the journey north. She took the parallel route of the slave trade.
They traveled without her, but with her. They did not singe a child in her place.
They remember her in all their dances. She will return to the tribe.

So what came to be known as the Fire of San Sebastian. That was her.
The great conflagration that gutted a city to its feet. Burned all the brothels.
Set all her whores free. Flames peddled by rats from house to house.
Charred bones and teeth back to the earth. It was the most magnificent.

The most beautiful elephantine fire she had ever made. San Sebastian burned.
For seven days. Half the journey for her tribe to find her and half to flee.
They cried the reclaiming of their daughter. As if they have reclaimed the sea.
Their hearts burned with greater fervour. For the day they take their boats again.

To the sea gypsies on this island.

Fatima Lasay, San Roque
January 18, 2014

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