Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Daphne Major



“The sisters of mercy / they are not departed / or gone.”
–Leonard Cohen

In 1831,
Darwin took his trip to Daphne Major
and, eventually,
changed forever what it means
for us to become.

There were new tortoises and platypuses;
beetles and barnacles and blue-footed boobies;
and finches,
oh, so many different finches!

It was the island herself
who made them so many and so rich.
Her finite store of Tribulus seeds,
her infinite tribulations and
utterly unique,
volcanic experience prompting
rival siblings into individual species,
transforming their very beaks
into ever-more appropriate
tools of survival.

Many years later,
a young girl — a true Tryphena —
saw her father, brother, mother
between them encounter and endure
War, then
a still closer sadness,
a twin loss, a scarlet Tryphosa,
then, incredibly,
War again.

In 1953,
with a newer sister beneath her wing,
the young woman took her own trip,
discovering that,
despite everything,

the Wars
had not won.

There was a brand new queen
with a divine prince husband;
lunch and champagne at
Canada House, and

“Mary still out at 1:30 am – tut! tut!”

There was Mallorca and Barcelona
and Nice and Cap Martin;
Capri and Sorento and Genoa,
Laocoön and the Vatican,
and, by all means, Rome.

There were the Carters and Stopford and
Stephanie and Smitty,
Dora and the Casa Rosa,
gin and oranges and quarrels with Jack,
(“a very superior sort of type,”)

“Julie and Dougie
have new house and puppy
— exciting!”

And there was wine,
and dance,
and Mario picking flowers:
“so very sweet.”

But more than all that,
there were two sisters, being
and becoming
the closest of friends.

For the now many of us,
(and, perhaps especially, for me)
this trip too changed forever
what it would mean for us
to become:

Two sisters returned to
spur the evolution of our pulses –
with all of our differences;
for better, for worse;
when loving and not –

and forged the generations
look through their eyes.

[for Mary Tryphena Smith, née Wurtele, and Daphne Jane Moyle Abraham, née Wurtele]

(c) Michael Quentin Abraham, 2016.

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