Mahogany Beach

Walking to the beach
from Pineapple Court Hotel
the first day we were in Jamaica
gave us room for pause
as we pass a large house,
its roof burned through,
the mangy dog waiting there, thin,
its hair more off its body than on.

That sobering scene,
located only across the street
from our hotel’s property
could have caused us
to leave Ocho Rios
for Montego Bay
or Negril,
but we walked on.

Bars on the windows
of the shops we pass
would give a tourist, new to Jamaica,
in town from a cruise ship
for less than a day,
the impression that Ocho Rios
is not a good neighborhood,
but I have visited the island many times.

I spy a young lady,
walking toward us,
& I motioned for her to stop.
Ange & Ryan keep walking,
men, old & young,
calling out to her
an orchestrated question:
“Will you marry me, momma?”

I asked the young lady:
“How far is it to Mahogany Beach?”
She asked, “Do you want me to take you?”
“That would be nice,” I tell her.
She turns around toward the town,
with me aware that Jamaica’s economic condition,     
in the places I’ve been, 
is similar to or worse than Ocho’s.

The young lady catches us up to
Ange & Ryan,
taking us in the direction
the desk clerk had told us to go.
Had she not been our guide,
we could have meandered for quite some time,
for no signage existed.

She took us downhill
through a broken canopy
of shade and sunshine
to a secluded bay
with a sand beach,
small, but big enough
to accommodate many people.
I give the young lady a tip she’ll remember.