You take the train from Mexico City
You take the train back to Palenque
and arrive in early morning
most likely hot, dusty and tired
and wait by the cross roads in the boiling sun.
Horses rear, a cacophony of dialects fly everywhere.
The bus finally arrives with fifty plus
passengers and you get stuffed in the aisle.
You step off in the zocolo at Palenque
to the liquado stand for sandia milkshake
or huevos revueltos at the nearby café
Then a bus to the ruins on the hottest day
you have known in years, so hot
flies skate on air and the parrot
walks down the tienda pole upside down.
You stride to pyramids under pyramids
up the long steps to the Temple of the Inscriptions
and down to the belly of the tomb
Where cameras click at removed bones.
Where only the spirit remains.
Where if you listen long enough, hard enough
a conch blows and the muscle of a nation
with a lost language, inhales bright red blood
the taste of early peace, roads and outrageous sacrifices
for bigger pyramids and the clearing of greater forests.
You emerge from the temple and stand looking down
the center of civilization with noon passing overhead.
A young man stalks around the pyramid base
wearing long hair, raging in his young beard with
thin arms waving,
“Hey Man. This is just like Detroit.”
Now you remember the long crossing at Coatzacoalcos
where the water ran yellow and the horizon died in
Campesinos toiled amid certain death.
You smelled the poison. You saw the greedy stink
so far out of reach your tears could not wash it.
Remember how cool the train seemed?
You could almost taste the scourge along the once
Could you have dreamed or even dared
to think the unspeakable
nitrogen scabs and sulphur baked in sun
cooked in rain that began covering the temples
erasing time, corroding the plumed serpent
the seated woman, the back of man?
Today you swim in the small pool
far below the Temple of Cross
with a young girl from Cuernavaca
She burns your heart with innocence
She dips her hands in the water
And comes up with tiny stones she swears
have been there forever and
she takes you to a string of vines above the Temple
of the Cross
She kisses you and then she runs down the tall grasses
down the hill where you are afraid she might fall
but you know she will not.
Now you have seen the light burn
in the howler monkey’s drum
In scarab, brujo and jaguar
Burn beneath the blood of stones and straw
Burn in the song of maize
Burn in the running girl’s eyes.
Burn beyond the great yawn of history.
David Plumb’s latest book is,
A Slight Change in the Weather, fiction. He has worked
as a paramedic, a cab driver, a tour guide and adjunct
professor. A long time San Francisco writer, he now
lives in South Florida. Will Rogers said, “Live
in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell
your parrot to the town gossip.” Plumb says,
“It depends on the parrot.”