The Bay of Sans Souci

Ivy Raff

North coast vista:
Shock of forest-clothed hills rose instantly, as if woken with a start
by the sea as it chopped and roared, as terrible as it was turquoise,
after a night spent in flirtation with the khaki-colored stretch of beach
who deigns to expose herself  only at rare low tide.
These southern reaches of the Caribbean Sea dominated the soundscape
over rustling papaya leaves and gossiping bananaquit birds.
For millennia the water has rolled over itself, dramatic,
its self-inflictions carving violently-shaped outcroppings off shore
Some rocks were so large and such close replicas of the island that their trees had become full-grown Trinidadians,
taking their precariousness in stride,
roots dripping down into the seaswirl.

The turtle-watching guide could not be reached.
But Sans Souci felt the right place to recover,
and though there was no turtle-watching that week, there was perfect loneliness.
I lazed I-can't-remember-how-many days and nights, as the salt air cauterized my wounds, in a hammock strung across a balcony
where, owing to the breeze, I couldn't feel the heat of the day on my skin.
In the yard, the ruined foundations of a plantation house
and a curved staircase leading up to a grand portico that doesn't exist anymore.
French cacao planters used this land to drive the Africans they enslaved;
their descendant is a smallish bespectacled guy named Eddie
whom I met checking out groceries in Port-of-Spain.
In place of the estate stood this rustic supersized treehouse
where the mango branches begged to drop their hard green babies into the sitting room,
where inside still feels like outside.

Afternoons, the vultures would come home after their decayed lunches
looking like chubby black turkeys, hopping and jabbering
as they stretched out their wings on the undulating mahogany branches, cooling their bodies
settling back into the marital squabbles of the nests.

Nights, it rained most wonderfully.
My body in the hammock caught a slight spray off the balcony rail
and the air smelt fresh as new mud.
The vultures didn't know what to do but escape,
confused black turkeys flying uncharacteristically fast into the bush
The corrugated tin roof became a slanging musical instrument.
Sans Souci:
The very name was incense
lifting perfume off the sea and pulling it through the tip of my pen.

The north coast of Trinidad is a wild, spectacular world of perfect beaches and junlge-clad hills. It is the remote, undiscovered jewel of the Caribbean. Don't tell anyone.

"Sans Souci" means "carefree" or "without worry".

Main Location:

Bay of Sans Souci, Caribbean Sea

Other locations:

The wild, jungle-clad north coast of Trinidad