A new knowledge

Tikal

                     It was like
                    A new knowledge of reality.

                                                     Wallace Stevens

As evening falls,
    so too, the relentless rain, the air
        dense with the stench of rotting
    vegetation. I am typing a letter to
        myself and there are children all

around me,
    curious to see the neat rows of black letters
        appear on the crisp white paper. So few
    typewriters make it to the forest depths.
        The rain does not ease and I’m

sitting now
    in the restaurant run by an elderly Chinaman
        who is desperate to buy my wristwatch.
    There are candles on the tables and they
        splutter and die as clouds of termites

envelope them:
    they are relit and die again, charred termites
        trapped in the smouldering wax. It is almost
    impossible to talk through these flurries of insects
        that find their way into ears and mouths

and nostrils.
    Mortality borne on frail white wings. An ancient
        city quarried from limestone lies now in ruins.
    a place of visitation rather than a centre of celebration.
        The Mayan time wheel halted in its tracks.

At dawn
    the mists rise above the temple pyramids, monkeys
        haul themselves over dilapidated walls, and deer
    and tapirs roam freely; wild turkeys scavenge
        in the undergrowth, unperturbed by the raucous

caw of toucans
    and parrots in the branches above. No human
        prayer will bring this city back to life.
    Nature has regained control: or rather, one life has
       surrendered to another in all its tacit mystery.

14 October 2004

John Lyons

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