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POETRY THE GULF OF MEXICO OFF GALVESTON ISLAND Three stars appear on the night of the new moon in the month of reflectionHavdalah, Rosh Hodesh, Elul. Prayers are sung, the braided candle is lit, and wine and spices are passed from hand to hand. Shabbbos ends, the water beckons and the sky reaches down. I am hereat the Gulf for the first time in the dark with the stars coming out one by one until the whole sky is lit. The wind off the water is cool and laced with salt. The waves give the songs sound and rhythm. I have seen the Gulf before, from airplanes, and from a car window as I crossed at the oil refineries that hug the border between Texas and Louisiana. I have imagined that the water off Galveston Island would be the same, silent as the heat, weighted down with oil. So I don’t expect the immense presence of the dark of the waves, the cool of the air, the clear light of stars. I walk alone across the beach in the dark, letting my feet find the warm salty water on their own. And I am herein a still, earthly moment to pray for peace. Living inland, the heat is interminable, never broken by rain or a cool wind from anywhere. Date palm leaves go gray. Pomegranates rot in the sun. Myrtle bloom wild pink, then wilt in the stillness of humid afternoons. I take a deep breath and imagine it all again, the power of these waves as I try to remember them. Flame and starlight and the sweet smell of anise guide the journey inland and out to sea, and Elul, the month of reflection, begins over and over again. Susan Naomi Bernstein THE NESTING TURTLE AT MATURA BEACH, TRINIDAD She pants and the whole sea exhales midnight ruffling a palm Lifting her head she weeps her eyeballs clean Still in that trance of birth How much pound she weigh? leather and bone Four hundred Ashore This palazzo of dark our kindled faces above her She soft there I stroke her neck fold She make plenty babies the eggs freefalling are white they glisten She camouflage those rear paddles sweep coarse sand over her body its huge flask now pivoting through coconut velvet to the Atlantic her jellyfish food She is saving my life Elizabeth Biller Chapman SUSAN NAOMI BERNSTEIN recently lived in Houston for three years, teaching basic writing to college students and working in the Writers in the Schools program. She has written about her experiences for The Chronicle of Higher Education. She is now teaching writing in Cincinnati. ELIZABETH BILLER CHAPMAN has been a teacher of Renaissance literature and a psychotherapist in private practice. Her books of poems are First Orchard and Candlefish. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Naomi Shihab Nye 9/10/04THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21