About Almonds and Ambergris
by Lorna Goodison
Atlanta Review, Spring/Summer 2019 issue
There is a perfume rising off the sea today.
A scent of almond top notes and base notes of ambergris.
I think about ambergris, a griege ball of scent starter
coiled in the stomach of sperm whales or rolling free,
a pomander perfuming the waters of oceans.
Did Jonah know that he was valuable as ambergris
sought after and needed to touch pulse points?
I meditate upon these matters this day as I lie
upon the outer reaches of Lyssons beach.
I think that I shall add the scent of berries now
to the perfume rising off the ocean. Water berries,
bright red such as those which cheered the eyes of Columbus
when he feared the sea would dip under and that he christopher
and his colombo in the Niña the Pinta and Santa Maria
would be drawn down to the weed clogged sea floor.
O chrisobal Colun set out for Cipangu and China
sweet winds swept his caravelles out to sea,
blessed weather, April month in Andalusia.
Now three ships full of frightened men
who have crossed that fine line of foam
into uncharted waters. Then Christobal sights
carved board horses and green branches
fresh branches bearing berries, life cast upon water.
There is a sweet smell coming off the sea today
of almonds and ambergris and red berries.
I think about Columbus and how he thought at first
these islands would be a source of gold,
of cotton and mastic, aloes, wood, and things invaluable
to him, poor thing. That sweet smell rising off the sea today.
May the perfumed tides wash my people now bright berries.