Belize

 

First Light

The jungle was abuzz with energy before first light.
Dark is the realm of Lord Jaguar and droning insects
and frogs with the power of human speech.

Night’s black curtain falls fast in the tropics,
but morning rises slowly, hoisted arm over arm
on the pulley of sky, a pale pink glow smoldering

through ash-gray fog, breath of a million trees.
Dawn comes to Belize, above the cooking fires
of San Ignacio, Cayo District, like the first day.

Footsteps feel their way down the old path
from Eva’s to the bank of the serpentine river
slithering from Guatemala, past Melchor de Mencos

through the valley to the broad coastal plain,
carrying the afternoon rains of El Petén
from the Mayan heartland to the mangroves.

Now sunlight burns through the haze,
and the world is suffused with birdsong:
parrots, scarlet macaws, kingfishers, cuckoos;

thrumming wing beats of hummingbirds
and ghostly coos of doves;  jacamars,
toucans, motmots, trogons and warblers all,

angels perched in the verdant canopy,
harmony and dissonance split by the scream
of Howler Monkey, leader of the Tree Men clan.

Only the resplendent quetzal is silent.
Quetzalcoatl, winged serpent, god of the wind,
giver of life, creator of the world, a terrible grief

stills your song as long as the land is not free.
You were there at the beginning, with Jaguar
and his four wives, when the first men were made

of mud that cracked in sun and dissolved in rain,
and the next men were carved from wood, lifeless
and mute. Together the first animals gathered

the corn, yellow and white, and ground the maize
into a fine meal and made man and woman
and planted their seeds in the garden.

And the garden grew light from the darkness
and became the whole world, a living,
breathing thing, fruitful and holy.

So it was in the beginning, and so it is
for all the mornings of the world, we wake
to the light of creation and light the fire

and gather water at the riverbank
and cook the masa de maiz into tortillas
and brew the xocolātl, hot chocolate

with vanilla and ground chili and achiote
that gives us strength and lights the
fire within us like the burning sun

that makes the world anew every day
on its faithful journey across the sky
on the path it has followed since creation.

Rain

La jungla, la selva tropical, call it rain forest.
The rain god Chaac was there in the beginning
and he returns, a man with the skin of a lizard,

iridescent scales glinting in filtered light
through a million shades of green, each afternoon
as dark clouds mass above the kapok trees.

Chaac strikes the sky with his thunder axe
and it is cleaved in two, and the raindrops
tumble down upon the thirsty earth,

on ceibas and palms and plantains,
ants and armadillos and ocelots,
snakes and crocodiles and frogs,

dripping, pouring down muddy sluices
through limestone caves, filling cenotes,
cascading down mountainsides and stone

temples where the priests spoke prophesies
and severed red rivers with their quick
obsidian blades. The frogs greet the rain

open-throated, as water is gathered
and drawn skyward, through living pillars
from root to trunk, branch to leaf, to where

it returns, invisible, to the ocean of sky.
And so it goes, an endless circular river
flowing from ground to tree to sky

and back to earth every afternoon,
water every day fresh as the first day,
the first rain that flooded the jungle

and gave life to maize and man.
This is the music of our lives, a song
of light and birds and rain without end,

and frog-song at every turn of the day:
Forever frog and egg and tadpole
and earth and wind and sky and rain.

I climb the hill back to town drenched
to the skin , like I am a part of the whole,
like I knew these words from inside

as I heard them for the very first time.