Date: August 3, 1993

Place: Fatu Hiva and beyond

The signs arrive days before
the first scent of land—
a sooty tern flying west
(manutara, as the island people say),
first one, and then another
and more as evening falls.
In the still morning before the trades
rise again, the smell of wet earth,
heart-rot, and green life growing
knocks you down.
You strain your eyes toward the horizon
for a smudge, a perturbation of the line
between the sea and sky,
but see only wave after endless wave.
When, at last, an island rises
and each mile carries you
back toward the dreams
that you once had,
it’s easy to forget what
the passage west
has shown:
Your landfall lies within.


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