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Afternoon in the Everglades
After lunch of frog’s legs,
‘Coon stew and craw daddies,
‘Gator tails and catfish, fried,
Beside banana sinkholes, wide,
Bopping with mosquitoes,
Which I brush aside,
Before I hide, beside,
My glass of frozen lemonade,
Behind the buzzing-lizard promenade.

Here I hesitate, I wait,
Inside the merry, tropic shade,
Where turtles swim and heron wade,
I wait for you, to have some fun,
For, better you than anyone.

So, let’s hold hands and let’s play pirate.
Let’s go look for Peter Pan.
Let’s sail across the streams and rivers,
Made of pale-green glass,
Down criss-crossed trails,
Of dark cat’s tails,
Under sweet-green grass,
Through red-brown seas, brown-golden tweeds,
And, yellow-shot, dry ochre weeds,
That wave in the low and slanted rays,
Of the winter-hot, burnt-orange sun.

Set sail, I say. Let’s seek our way.
Let’s follow the paths of fairy tales.
You raise the anchor, I’ll set the sails.
Let’s search for sunken galleons,
Filled with myths and gold doubloons,
Lost in rainbow’s golden tunes.

Let’s search between the hollow reeds,
And, inside air-plant’s golden seeds.
Let’s search beneath the secret echoes,
Bounding off of the dark, brown fur,
Of chocolate-velvet, cat tail canes,
That fringe the hidden-heron lanes,
With bamboo swaying overhead,
In towers ten feet tall.

Oh, here in the pastel fields of grass,
We, in our ships, are Kings and Queens.
Adventure waits on every hand,
Where the saw-grass kisses the wet, white land.

The prow of our boat is a gumbo-limbo,
The riggings are ropes of the strangler-fig,
And the spiny-tall, palmetto trunks,
All gray and struck like sun-stained glass,
Are the sails of our ship,
Are the masts of our ship,
And, we sail through the saw-grass sea.

We beach on the floors of the forest-ferns.
We follow the wiggles of lizard’s turns.
We swing on the green vines with never a care.
May the snakes, and the scorpions and crocodiles beware.

Let’s adorn one another with lichen-lace gowns.
Let’s crown one another with red, persimmon crowns.
Arm one another with cactus spine swords,
Hung from our waists by green, liana cords.
Let’s wear cloaks of skink-skin reflecting back the sun.
And tell the shadows, dark and gray,
They must be on the run.

Hark! Ahead! The Jolly Roger!
Manned by raptor scallywags,
Ruffians and rag-a-muffins,
Dressed in bedraggled rags,
Long feathered, sharp billed,
Their pugnacious schooner filled,
With bowl legged, bully birds,
Screeching such contemptuous words,
Man the cannons! They won’t stay!
Fire! And they’ve all flown away!

Grab the spy glass, be the outlook!
Off the bow rides Captain Hook!
If a snout pops out, give a hearty shout,
For we don’t want a shock, from the tick-tock, crock.

We have no wish to be pirate’s captives.
We did not want to walk the plank.
So we turned and we rammed the wicked ship,
And we laughed when she buckled,
And she broke and she sank.
So we never had to swim,
With the Fakahatchee mermaids.
Instead we dance at pow-wows,
With the Micasukee Indians.
We have dinner pick-nicks,
With the Payhayokee Lost Boys,
Tell each other stories in their tree-house nests,
And laugh beneath the moonflowers
When the rain clouds rest.

The coming evening’s yawning, lazy.
Let’s jump up, do something crazy.
Let’s go capture all the tree-snails,
Painted-candy colors, swirling,
On their twirling, porcelain shells.
Let’s put them with the curl-tipped ferns,
And, give them to the clouds.

Oh, let’s not go to sleep tonight,
Let’s stay out all night long,
Let’s stay, you and me,
Let’s go live in a tree,
Oh, let’s stay,
In the saw-grass sea.

But, after the shadows,
Were stretched out longer,
Than anyone ever thought they would,
Than anyone ever thought they could,
The story book folk all went off to their beds,
And, the fairy folk pirates,
Shied away and shook their heads.

The ragged band of raptor birds,
Went home to nests in cypress trees.
Behind the red sun, mangrove seas.
With the turn of the wind,
With the change of the breeze,
And, without us aboard,
At the end of the day,
Our ship raised her anchor,
And, just sailed away.
Just left us behind and so what can I say?

We will have to go home now,
It’s time now for bed.

But, I wish that,
Forever the Everglades dance,
In your soul, in your life,
In your heart and your head.
V. Castellanos – 1999
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