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Departure from Rattlesnake Island
DW Bender, October 2003

the boatman calls

438 years to the month after the Spanish
massacre of French Huguenots at Matanzas Inlet   

ourlittletourgroup  m e a n d e r s from historical fort grounds on

the barrier island

totheferry  which will return us to Anastasia Island

cupped inmyhands   the discarded skin 
of a grasshopper-nymph

l o n g  s t a l k  o f  g r a s s...acast-offhusk 
.......s w a y s
...beside thebeatenpath

discovered by thecouple   2stepsahead
who stopped   to look.............
andthen......moved     on...

aboard the ferry
.andmoving.....toward the backrowseats

  search   out     2youngchildren    accompaniedbytheirparents

dangling half-over the railing
the2boys       scout         thefarshore

   o  p  e  n    m y   h a n d s

with 2fingers    lift the husk    out    to show them


'a grasshopper left this behind'   I say

t h E y   S q u i r M

paper-thin  translucent

the  nymphal husk f l utt ers


the estuary

we   look   through   its   head   see   through  its  eyes

I let the wind take it

the from   the  mooring
.......tidal current
......................pul l i n g  u s........a   w   a   y

theengine s p u t t e r s   backto life

Fort Matanzas deserted
mud crabs duel...among oyster shells


In October, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles slaughtered over 250 surviving castaways. French Huguenots from Fort Caroline to the north who were advancing to attack the incoming Spanish settlers. Shipwrecked by hurricane. Blocked by the inlet. On the peninsula's mainland, the Spaniards established San Agustin, which would become the oldest continual colony in the country. 100 years later, and taking 84 years to complete, quarrying of the native *coquina stone was begun for construction of Castillo de San Marcos, overlooking the bay of San Agustin. And almost 200 years after the massacres, a "back door" fort was erected of the same stone on a barrier island at the mouth of the inlet, *Ft. Matanzas; a small, but effective sentinel. Here, soldiers guarded the waterway and the colony of San Agustin. Now, from the British and any other enemies. Not long afterward, in 1763, all of "La Florida" was ceded to the British in exchange for captive Havana, capital of Cuba. "La Florida" would become "Florida" when it became United States territory; San Agustin is now known by the English pronunciation: St. (Saint) Augustine.

*coquina stone: "coquina" is Spanish for "little shell"; the porous stone is a native sedimentary lime calcification consisting of masses of tiny coquina clamshells and shell fragments. The underlying foundation of Anastasia Island, the soft quarried stone hardens as it dries. Walls constructed of coquina could absorb cannon balls to a limited depth, whence they would be pried out and returned in fire on the invading enemy.

*Matanzas: Spanish for "slaughters"

Artist-poet D.W. (Debi) Bender resides in Orlando, Florida, USA, where she has lived for the past dozen years or so. Her interest in combining her visual arts with her poetry began many years ago. At times she has experimented with concrete poetry, which eventually found its way into her haiku, haiku series, and "art-haiku" (contemporary "haiga") after she rediscovered haiku on the internet in 1999. Since that time, she has been exploring the combination of visual arts and poetry in her haiku, tanka, "ren" (new-renga) forms, sijo, haibun and multi-genre poems. She has combined haibun with her artwork, photography, and concrete text-visuals, using the text to illustrate and expand meaning, as she has done in "Departure from Rattlesnake Island."

Debi views her multimedia efforts through the Japanese poetic forms as hybrid styles. Her art-poetry is meant to be different from Japanese haiga and haibun, but in their own right, a Western style of art which has grown "out from" Japanese forms, borrowing from their concepts for inspiration.

Debi has worked with the World Haiku Club in various aspects since 2000, and is WHC's Deputy Chairman and the Editor-in-Chief of its online magazine, World Haiku Review.


World Haiku Club (WHC Official site)
World Haiku Review (magazine of WHC)
Paper Lanterns (Personal Website)


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