Touchy and firm
Your angelic smile
Comes to my Island
Lies upon my horizon
-from “Sunset,” by Eva Lingairi, published in Mi Mere: Poetry and Prose by Solomon Islands Women Writers
This poem gives me back its words, but they’re new, and awash in seawater. I’ve always heard “touchy” as a bad thing. Oversensitive. Easy to offend. I think Eva Lingairi means touchy like related to touch: the sunset on the horizon, the last sips of light on the water, on the sand, on her. Her feet on the island, and her poem brushing past me.
I’m so grateful to have a touchy world. In these last months, in harder moments, I’ve lay down on the floor, running my fingers over the carpet. In light movements I’ve walked barefoot on grass, opened my hands to sunlight. I imagine Lingairi might have done something similar: held the last bit of the day as it held her. “Touchy” came to mean touchy, how we use it, because we blurred words together: etymonline suggests “tetchy” and Shakespeare’s “teachie” were influenced by the familiar “touch,” and here we are. But what if brushing past each other—being aware of brushing past each other—wasn’t framed as an aggravating thing. What if it was angelic, what if it was sweet, what if it was sunset and the island.
I’m going outside to hold a leaf. A rock. It’s sunset where I am, which feels like a gift Lingairi’s giving. So there are a last few sips of light, and then there’ll be the softness of twilight and the dark.