EUSTACE ELIGER EDGECOMBE REMEMBERS By Caridad Moro-Gronlier, 14 November, 2017
Eustace Eliger Edgecombe, originally from the Bahamas, worked at Vizcaya from 1917-1969. Vizcaya’s “unofficial house historian,” Edgecombe began as a water boy during Vizcaya’s construction, but was soon promoted to flower boy by Head Housekeeper Cecelia Adair in 1918. He went on to become a houseman and remained an estate caretaker long after James Deering died. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Facebook Page
James Deering’s yacht was named The Nepenthe, named after the ancient
drink distilled from flowers so powerful sorrow was said to be forgotten.
I indulged in the elixir of his vessel whenever I went aboard and yes, I forgot.
Forgot the splintered sides of skiff, boarded at seventeen
bound for Biscayne Bay where I landed a job in the dredges, learned
to drain ocean from land that insisted on staying besotted.
Forgot the hard climb out of bog to the palace, Vizcaya,
hands roughened by salt and stone, calloused enough to endure
the endless heft of water buckets I was hired to ferry.
Forgot the names of stonemasons and milkmaids, gardeners, blacksmiths,
forgot the greenhouse heat, the scatter of chicken feed, forgot the prick
of Sandbur, Thorny Leaf, weeds that drew blood when pulled from native soil.
I even forgot the caramel of my lover’s skin, forgot the way back
to my island, forgot myself and pledged my life in service to Master
Deering’s pleasure, put on white gloves, clutched a clipboard and forgot
the meaning of no as I witnessed stone terraces rise from the sea,
every yes ever imagined wrestled from the earth, safe behind a hammock,
of rock land and hard wood. After that, I forgot the melody I once hummed,
forgot the words to my favorite tune, Sloop John B., forgot its refrain—
I want to go home. Remembered only my mother’s voice, silken with folksongs
her farewell advice—Take Your Burden to the Lord and Leave It There.
I listened to her. Took my burden to the The Nepenthe and left it there, sipped
forgetting from the cup my mister allowed me to hold, years of sorrow congealed
into jeweled dregs, grief a perfect ruby at the bottom of my glass.
Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Visionware as published by Finishing Line Press. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant and a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry. She is a dual-enrollment English Professor for Miami Dade Public Schools in conjunction with FIU, a professor for Miami Dade College and the Editor-In-Chief of The Orange Island Review.
This poem was debuted at the FIU Honors College‘s “Poetry Art Community” at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on 14 November, 2017.
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