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WILLIAM WALKER: BETWEEN HIS ARRIVAL & EXECUTION IN HONDURAS (1860)

Yaddyra Peralta

Kevin Hopkins, What's So Villainous?, Courtesy of Young Arts
 

. . . his grey eyes without pupils, fixed like a blind man’s

but which expanded and flashed like gunpowder in combat

-Ernesto Cardenal

 

The  canopy  keeps  the  light  out.  The  foliage, 

this  tangle  of  vines  and  leaves  entwined, 

enabling  or  strangling,  I  know  not  which,

might  just  be  the  thing  to  keep  my  pursuers  out. 

The  birdsong  is  layered  too.  Tiny  wood  wrens,

unseen,  sing  a  silver  song  sometimes  sublime

over  the  anxious  gaggle  of  parakeets  calling  out 

the  incomprehensible  news  of  the  forest. 

I  listen  for  the  jaguar.  The  sound,  they  say  is

not  a  roar  but  more  like  a  vibration

stirring,  as  if  straight  from  the  entrails

of  an  angry  god,  and  it  may  lead  me  to 

another  kind  of  battle.  I  know  not  where  I  go, 

but  that  I  walk  away  from  open  water,  away  from  the  sea

and  the  movement  of  a  stream  bubbling  or

a  river  rushing–away  from  the  thrum  of

my  heartbeat  even.  But  the  heat  takes  me  back 

to  New  Orleans,  Ellen’s  porch  where  we  would  sit 

after  my  day  at  the  paper,  where  I  would  

try  to  describe  the  song  of  a  mockingbird. 

“Let  me  read  your  lips,”  she’d  say,  “just  let  me

read  your  lips.”  And  I  would  chirp  like  a  fool

and  whatever  she  found  there  as  she  laughed

her  prim  self  open,  I  will  never  know.  If  she  were  still 

on  this  earth  and  somehow  here  beside  me,  quietly  fleeing,

she’d  mouth  the  names  of  clouds  past  the  tree  tops,

cirrus,  cirrocumulus,  cumulus,  (cumulus!), 

and  cumulonimbus,  the  progression  of  shapes

like  the  blossoming  of  a  flower.  She  

would  not  know  me  now.  I  look 

for  an  opening  into  the  heart  of  the  jungle 

and  see  a  click  beetle  walk  across  the  forest  floor. 

The  phosphorescent  marks  on  its  back 

like  unwavering  eyes  staring,  leading  me

into  the  darkening  maw.

 

Yaddyra Peralta is a poet whose work has appeared in Ploughshares, Tigertail, Abe’s Penny, Hinchas de Poesia and Eight Miami Poets (Jai Alai Books). She teaches writing and literature at Miami Dade College and in community outreach projects in partnership with Exchange for Change and O, Miami.

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  • Lanzo Calrissian

    Lovely