homepage logo

Poetic License: Alligator in the Sky

By Staff | Aug 30, 2017

(Tainos were the pre-Columbian inhabitants

of Puerto Rico and the West Indies. Huracn (hoo-rah-kn), from which our English word hurricane is derived, was their god of wind and chief enforcer.


When they were still a people,

the Tainos of Borinquen believed

the Milky Way was a giant alligator

sprawled across the inverted belly of night.

That was why I sat uneasy

at the Sanibel Island Council meeting

while they voted to harvest the alligators

for killing two of our islanders —

surely warranted, even inevitable,

the removal decision still smelled of revenge.

I knew that Huracn, quick to anger,

had not disappeared with the Tainos

who worshipped him but still smoldered

every summer in the cauldron seas

off West Africa — looking for excuses

to spawn and spin furious offspring toward

the New World that had tried to displace him.


And so a few days after the first harvest,

I watched the Weather Channel as Huracn

spit two wild children, Bonnie and Charley

into the boiling Atlantic to search and destroy

the Milky Way profaners of Southwest Florida.


Bonnie missed the target,

my uneasiness eased for a few hours

but then on the Doppler screen

her brother Charley stopped tumbling after her

and whirled suddenly over the Cayman Islands –

the Weather Channel oracles, like Bohique priests

explaining ominously: “Every major hurricane

to hit Florida must pass over Hebert Box Two,

or the Cayman Islands” but they all failed to mention:

Cayman was the Spanish word for alligator.


Like Cyclops chasing Odysseus,

Charley, his ever-tightening dreadful eye

flailing maelstroms of fury around him,

raced straight toward me and Southwest Florida.


Orlando or Miami ?

I guessed right and fled over Alligator Alley

to the posh sanctuary of the Hotel Calypso

in Miami, lounging among the bikinied nymphs,

hermaphrodites and satyrs of South Beach

in cowardly luxury

by the stagnant 400 foot “Infinity” pool

while Charley roared ashore in vengeful fury

behind torrents of horizontal rain,

whacking down every Australian pine

daring to stand up to him,

forcing palm trees to their knees,

tearing off roofs, crushing homes,

collapsing pool cages, and for the longest time

darkening my island so that I could not return.


The Civic Gods gave permission and we waited

on the long line to the causeway

to behold the ravishment of our island

by Charley, Huracn’s son –

her flora dress rudely torn and stripped,

the once lush green body of Sanibel

left brown and naked

to the hot peering eye of post-hurricane sun,

then violated further by grapplers, cherry pickers,

backhoes and chainsaws –

From Eden to Hades in a Huracn minute,

I wondered – could Paradise be regained?


The house I had abandoned to the storm

greeted me like a battered child smiling weakly

at a deadbeat father. Without power,

it would not let me stay under its roof

for more than an hour and I was lucky to find

a motel room in town from where I could visit

my house and still hide from Huracn.

Then Huracn spit Frances toward Florida.,

On the motel TV, I watched her spiral

on the Weather Channel toward the East Coast –

a buxom Category 4 daughter. It was time to get

some warmer clothes from the house

and flee to where Huracn could not reach me –

the stone and steel sanctuary of Manhattan Island.


Huracn kept pursuing and raging

with two more blockbuster children:

Ivan turning twice into the northern Gulf

to liberate alligators from the zoos

in Alabama and Jeanne drenching

and flooding everything in her path

from Florida to New England, neither aware

that in between their landfalls

I had sneaked back to rebuild my island


As I opened my house for the third time,

a sudden gust of wind rattled my torn pool cage.

On the golf pond behind my house

an unharvested alligator navigated nervously,

as if he knew what I knew –

on our island, very soon, there would only be

one giant alligator in the sky.