Caladesi Island

Not five minutes after we embarked
on the inland path, our eyes
watchful for rattlesnakes
amid yellow cactus-flowers,
the vampires invaded. We wondered
about malaria, remembered
the repellant lying on the floorboard.
Brown swarms revealed our bodies
as simple prey, frantic slaps
and our palm lines swirled in the red
relief of our own blood. We scurried
beneath circling osprey
while a green heat glistened.

At last we heard waves,
first whispers against the thumped
blood in our ears. The buzzing cloud
deserted us, and horizon opened
between sawgrass-topped dunes.
We splashed into the baptism
of turquoise waves, rinsed tiny corpses
from our legs and arms. Kicked against
the saltwater, stinging with brine and conquest.