Around midnight I met Shelley
in the jungle atmosphere of the seedy
oceanfront cabaret Trade Winds.
We were seated at the oval bar, and
a lazy quintet’s rendition of Limehouse Blues
was competing with overhead fans.
One wall was glass overlooking the boardwalk
and moonlight dancing on the surf, the
other walls were lined with bamboo cages
of screeching monkeys. The bartender
wore a pith helmet and eye patch.
I ordered drinks, his an Ocean Reef
blending two varieties of rum
with peach schnapps and blue curacao
in orange juice, mine a Purple
Nurple of tequila, curacao, and sloe gin.
Young Shelley's fair hair curled
over his brow and down the back of his neck.
This troubled man, an English gentleman
and revolutionary, flaunted tradition,
a guardian of equality, justice, freedom.
He had a need to reform the world:
Oh that the free would stamp the impious name
of KING into the dust!…Oh that the…pale name
of PRIEST might shrink and dwindle into the hell
from which it first was hurled.
We sipped our drinks and decided we
were no disciples of church or clique
or fools of any persuasion. Shelley
recalled these lines from Mont Blanc:
Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep--that death is slumber
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
Of those who wake and live.
A hooker was dismissed by Shelley
with a shilling and the flourish of a hand.
As we sampled a series of exotic drinks
Shelley said he imagined his death on the
drear ocean's waste in Alastor, composed
seven years before his boat the Don Juan
foundered off the Italian coast.
We said goodnight with Jungle Stingers
at the moment I passed out. I awoke
on the beach as the sun emerged from the sea.
Shelley was gone. I scanned the horizon
seeking a glimpse of the Don Juan
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