Brazil – two poems

toucanI like to think that the ten years I spent living in Brazil enhanced my powers of observation, particularly, of the environment. The colour and diversity of the tropical and sub-tropical flora and fauna fascinated me endlessly. Birdlife in particular always caught my attention and my imagination. It was wonderful to see and hear the buzz of humming-birds or to see textbook toucans flying at a leisurely speed past my study window, or to observe the mating ritual of small birds that would hop up and down incessantly on the garden wall as though they had springs attached to their legs.

Where there is abundant rain and sunshine, nature appears to enter into overdrive and plants and trees grow at a staggering pace. It was a constant reminder of the richness of the earth and the bounty of life: the life that is there to be lived and enjoyed, one day at a time.


At night cattle graze
      upon the hillside,
I see them in the moonlight,
      their white hides glow
incandescently. Night
      shadows are the deepest
although also the quickest
      to be displaced. I raise
my eyes from the book
      I am reading and the cattle
have disappeared. Their
      sluggish shadows trail
behind them, hopelessly
      dragging the light
into the darkness.

*

Earth banana they call plantains
banana da terra
and thus metaphor for all food
all basic foods that derive
from the earth and feed the earth;
from clay the nutrients that will feed
the clay that one day will be laid
to rest in clay. What we call the food chain
which sounds so cold and technical
compared to the lifeline
life chain that in reality it is,
the earth feeding its own
like any mother would,
the papaya and coconut
before my eyes today
in Arraial d’Ajuda, Brazil
this 22 December
the succulence of their flesh
both humid and firm.
Why the consumption of food
is so close to being a sex act
utterly pure and essential.
Not fantasy food
but minerals that confirm our
blood relationship to fields
of rice and barley and wheat,
to the cattle that trample upon
vast plates of pasture.
Bounteous earth, fired by endless sun,
bathed in ocean blue, swept
by the breath of life.
The descent of poetry into science
is inevitable, though Shelley
recognized that all life ascends,
only death dips back to the earth
and to rebirth.
If life is location it is love too
chemical communities,
fire in the blood, iron in the soul:
what binds us to our humanity
is this magnetism and the desire
      to be less than one
so as to be completed, even if
bi-lateral love sounds geometric.

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