Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Welcoming

The barge cuts through the water
Easy, soundless, like a tiger breathing
(And there might be one,
Ten paces back, close enough to jump -
But don't look behind you)

(Never look back)
The train of mourners, weeping and wailing
On their boats, smaller and unadorned
For they are not the sacrifice,
Not the gift delivered into the palm of the jungle -
Their voices rise and fall, rise and fall
Counterpoint to the bright birds shrieking
And only these you see, as they flit
Tree to tree, bank to bank,
Garlands in motion for your canopy -

For you look ahead, straight ahead
As the river winds back and forth
Not because it is lost, but because
It wants to bewilder you
Dazzle you with flowers bold
Whose perfume, when they open,
Swallows you, makes your head
Spin and your eyes see only
What is not there

Surely the tigers are not real
Nor the ridged back
The enameled tail, flicking -
No crocodiles keep pace with your barge
Floating serenely, serenely, down the river
(Down, always, to the heart of things)

The mourners are silent now
Or you cannot hear them through the haze
One by one the flowers open
Violet, orange, magenta, red
Signs planted just for you among the reeds
Secrets only for your ears,
Bursting in eagerness to share their burden

(Selfish things, flowers) You go
Beneath the arch of heavy leaves
The bright birds, bright fruit as one
No mourners follow you now, their boats
Unmarked by blood promised and delivered,
Voices trapped, for here there is no sound -

The barge cuts through the water
Easy, soundless, like the tiger's breathing,
The blinking of the crocodile's great slow eyes,
The opening of a thousand flowers,
The hush, as the one the jungle has been waiting for
Finally arrives.

--

Written March 2012. Portfolio piece.

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