After Years of Ethnographic Research, Professor Jones Retires to the Tropics

Don’t get me wrong.
Just because you see me
tying on this sarong
doesn’t mean the seamy
sides of these natives’
lives entice me,
or their soft culture—
all fronds and coconuts, knives
slicing down the moisture-
laden fruit that drips
sweetly from my lips.

So, yes, I guess
I’ve become a kind of fixture
here, my loosened dress
disguising nonetheless
an academic heart.  But where’s
that gone?  Here, where air’s
hibiscus mild, I seem to lose
my rubrics, notes, and plans.
I take in a new world’s news
on palmy sands.

But isn’t this after all
what I've tried to teach my
students hunkered, fall
and winter long?  Open your eyes!
I tell them.  Put on an alien
point of view.  Make foreign skin
the way you let your data come in.

Like the waves around my toes—
these, too, a proper tool
for research—the endless flow’s
a pattern you won’t learn in school.
I tell them that as well.
Transcribe everything?  Yes, I say.
You want your subjects natural,
have done your best to allay
their charming, native naivete?

Then, of course, record.  But tie
the knot however you can.
Do and record.  No need to buy
smiles from that bronzed young man.
Like yours, his heart’s as free
as his warm pacific glance.
Go to it now.  You're trained to see—
you’re honed with sensitivity.
Pursue each fine nuance.