October 14th, 2020
I Answer, I Don't KnowA coyote is howling at night in the Gran Sabana, Water pooling in the lake below Auyán-tepui. A wooden motor-boat winds along the river Where, over the water, the canopy hangs low, Branches leaning, drooping to drink. Who hums by the rudder, and whistles aimless? What watches from the undergrowth, Purring and sweeping its tail, Hackles raised and ready to pounce. Are there fish beneath us? Do they flock and scurry like rats in the river, Frenzied at the mention of needle wounds. How deep does it go, you asked. I answered, I don’t know. How far are we going, you asked. I answered, I don’t know. It’s already warm enough to be - She shifts in her seat, Hard wooden bench - Uncomfortable. The sweat beading, running - the humidity. An unnatural glow is in your cheeks, Is it coming from the sunrise? You look newborn, ethereal in this light. When you woke your eyes were red, Your skin was drawn and pale. Can you still smile, I wanted to ask, To beat you till the cheer came out. In the darkness of the river I saw you drowning, Reaching up for me though I pushed you down. Last night you wept silently, The sickness of your tears seeping like poison, Drops fizzing to the wooden floor Where they burrowed, Escaping the over-world to the earth. Who hums by the rudder, and rocks like a wave? What sniffs and scratches in the thicket, Head cocked and staring wild eyes, Heart pounding and ready to pounce. Light was coming in through the shutters, Reflecting on the polished planks. I never spent much time staring at the floor, Until the sun made it beautiful. Who is that murmuring in the dark, With the brim of their hat pulled low? Without the touch of their hand, The whisper of their breath, they blend away. A cave in the mountainside yawns, With the dawn it rises and wakes, Sowing the new day’s boulder seeds, Leaning back against the mountain for comfort. Another cave comes to mind, It’s a bit like in G____ you say, Do you remember that night? How can I forget? Along the banks of that freezing water we strolled, Dipping thoughts like fly-rods over the Lakes. From the town, in the off-season where the streets, Like theme-parks, Went from smothering, mutely, to abandoned. Up away from the water we wandered, A track made in the Spring by animals and others. The trees bowed low in the gloom, As it surrounded us, we moved together. We moved together, Toe to toe, Under the blanket of sunset, The softly falling snow. In a dip we stepped into the side to make way, Someone passed us, coming down from the hills. Our hands touched as we moved together. I remember the details of their face, I remember the warmth of your hand, The glow of your cheek, The ethereal light. Do you remember the cave? I remember the details of their face, As they passed us, Coming down from the hills. From the path we strayed, Upwards, away from the river. Steeply we climbed, With the water placid to our backs. As the sun came down behind the hills We came across a cave, A gaping maw. The mouth of the land. Could this be the entrance, You laughed with bright eyes, Is this where we walk Down to hell? Will the devil be there? When we reach the dark heavens Will he reach out his hands, Laden with rubies and blood? Will he tell us he missed us, That we’ve been gone too long, Dust had begun to settle On the stones by our heads. At the entrance of the cave is a pool. Water gleams in the evening light, Shimmering surface, unending depths Dive right through to the underworld. Stepping stones carry us into the darkness Hard smooth slabs where we slip But don’t fall, reach out for each other And hold ourselves together. Deeper we go, to where sunlight dies And the walls of the cave shine, Glistening only with the light That reflects from the water below. Around us the water stretches, Black and unbroken Fraction-less, tideless, A glass carved in stone. Great and grey stone wall looms, It towers over us where we stand, On the pebble beach, A tunnel breaching the flat, Black, it does not end. Light sparkles, from the distant door, Where we left our shoes by the reeds. The grass was damp from the day’s rain, The stones cool after the sun’s set. How deep does it go, you’ll ask. I’ll answer, I don’t know. How far are we going, you’ll ask. I’ll answer, I don’t know. Bright, wild eyes, Birds’s talons and plumes, Bouncing branches that spring, Rubber swinging back, then steady. How far have we come, you asked. I answered, I don’t know. How far are we going, you asked. I answered, I don’t know. I breath in the moonlight, As though the cave had held a rag, Damp with the black pool water, Tight to my gasping mouth. I drink in the moonlight, Feel the cool air in my throat, Feel the warm air on my cheek As you breath beside me, Drinking in the moonlight. You say, look up there, Your hand pointing to the sky. You tell me, look at that, Your sky outlining a pointing hand. Somewhere in the distance a bird calls, An exotic, whooping siren. The coyote that howled in the night sleeps soundly, Ears twitching. But look, comes the whisper, Brim low, hand points. A rustle, a stir, The water slides by. From out of the canopy cave it crawls, Dragging its weary mouth to the water. The coyote’s eyes close, The sun breaches. Where did it come from, you ask. I answer, I don’t know. Yesterday, at Ptari-tepui you talked about home. Under the roof of the world you remembered, Home. I wanted to say forget it, But I was remembering too.
©2007-2021 Benedict Esdale