Repartee under stress in Venezuela

 For Jeanie, for March 26th  2007 at Hato El Cedral.

The road in Llanos

The idea was to take advantage of good viewing in the dry season.
How fortunate for the tourists that in the marsh of Llanos
large areas of water then almost vanish
herding fauna to precarious proximity.
Scarlet ibis stride amongst the crocodiles
anacondas slither under mud, capybaras tread with care
and at the track’s edge
myriad caiman’s eyes rise from water
like reflective markers on a damp road.

From the truck the wet areas stand out like emeralds on parchment
ornamented with dried cattle corpses, the cloying smell of death,
and primal screams as  reptiles maul a mammal.
The sun can also kill, baking mud so hard
that a snake’s refuge becomes a mausoleum.

This is value for money, this is wildlife on demand.
This is the stuff of poetry!

Two hours from the ranch house,
whilst feeding wild mangoes to domestic cows,
the programme expanded as the wet season ruptured,
drenching us to the bone on the open truck. 
Dust morphed to mud then rivulets as Llanos stirred.
Our driver raced for base, with speed a mad device
to pass the slippery sections of the elevated route.
Massed eyes in the water watched our crazed flight,
the vested interest was now with them
as we side slipped on the glistening track
or hit hidden ruts with a spine threatening thwack
We fled like soaked creatures dreading attack.

The watchers watched

Unaware that such terror was on the itinerary
I thought to reassure my wife
Who turned and mouthed her only commentary:

“We’re living your dream”.



This poem appeared on Charles Christian’s webzine Ink Sweat and Tears  click on the highlighted title to visit his excellent site.

You can hear a recording of me reading this poem on Poetry Aloud, click here to access .

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