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“The Edge of the Everglades” – Oil Pastel on paper – 11″ x 8 1/2″ – by V. Castellanos

The Everglades do not want us,
We who would be kings,
We who would be scientists,
Would be magicians,
Mathematicians,
Or, even poets,
We who would crack the genetic code,
And, understand quantum mechanics,
We who would walk in the dusts of the moon,
And, on the rings of Saturn,
We who would build pyramids and bridges,
Conquering empires and devouring the earth,
We who would have the weather under our control,
And, the wind under our command,
With robotic slaves and computational miracles,
Clones and the keys to unlock the secrets of immortality.

We are out of place.
We are not really welcome here.
Only the changelings are welcome,
The fairies raised as humans,
The humans raised as fairies,
But, you know, the changelings are part of the past,
There are no changelings now.

What the Everglades really want,
Is for the dragon souls of its trees,
To be free and unfettered,
To slip beyond the confines of their bark into the clouds,
To sing with the mud and to soar with the eagles,
To celebrate snakes and snails,
To creep out of the darkness,
Into the bodies of beetles and the tongues of the tortoise,
Into the breeze and the alligator’s souls,
Into the panther’s eyes and the wings of heron,
To keep the worlds quick shadows,
And, the green heartbeats,
All in tune with one another,
And, in harmony with the rains and sunshine.
They only want time to pass the way the breezes pass,
And, sunlight to continue caressing the ripples under the grasses.
They want the air to feed the trees,
And, the mud to feed the insects.
They would have the simplicity of chaos,
Excite the complexity of nature,
And, keep the universe expanding.
They would nurture every form of life,
Without limitation, without gradation,
Without judgment.
Keep wanting. Reproduce.
Dancing to music we cannot hear.
Laughing with hurricanes.
Breathing emotion.

But, the spirits can no longer do that,
Because they know we are coming,
Instead they are holding hands,
Holding tight to their dreams,
Holding their breath,
Hiding inside the leaves.
They know who we are.
They hear us, almost upon them,
Surveying equipment in hand,
Trampling through and shouting,
Singing of our accomplishments,
And, ready to take over,
Ready to change,
Everything.

If you stopped trampling about so much,
Could you be as quiet as the blue-black beetle,
As calm as a cypress tree,
As graceful as a ghost orchid,
As insubstantial as a rainbow?
If you could, you might hear the thoughts,
Of the lizards and the leaves,
The Spanish moss,
The sap inside of the twigs.
They are whispering into the spaces,
The places,
Inside of one another’s minds,
Where the winds neither enter nor interface.

Wary of every step we take,
They have been around a long time,
And, they have seen a lot.

“Go away! Go away! Go away!” they say.
“Go back by the road on which you came.
“Go away and shut the door,
“Behind you when you leave.”
But, we, who do not believe in spirits,
We don’t hear a thing.

Like the toys in your childhood bedroom,
Who came to life only when you were asleep,
They are keeping their secrets.

And, what are we doing here anyway?
Did we just come to play with Peter Pan?
Did we come here to find the Fountain of Youth?
To make our fortune?
To gain our fame?

Did we come hungry for knowledge?
Did we come for vision to grant us power?
Did we come to break everything apart,
Or to steal the gold egg?
What did we come to change?
Why do we want to change it?
What are the plans we have here,
For our logic and laws and our rational minds?

The Everglades never were intellect’s minions.
They are not challenging the heavens,
Reaching for the stars.
They are not trying to conquer anything.
They are not burdened with the need for evidence, or analysis,
For facts and information,
Statistics or probabilities,
Or, even a personal vision of truth.
They live by the strength of their hunger,
And, the beat of their hearts.
They only want what is, and care not for what if.

The Everglades’ spirits are getting to know us,
And, the wind has begun to shift.

“Aren’t you ready to leave yet?”
“Aren’t you ready to leave?”

We are just like the Everglades.
We can only be what we are.
It seems that none of us have a choice.

What can we learn from one another,
Moving in different directions?
Will we meet at the end of the circle,
Or, will I go on and on until I am dizzy?
Will I follow myself until I’m lost?

After we are gone, of course,
The Everglades will take everything back.
The landscape will reassemble itself.
The leaves will abandon their camouflage.
The birds will grow a thousand wings,
And, the bodies of beasts will manifest,
In multiple additional dimensions.
The lizards will dance for the wild anhingas.
The heron will sing to the strangler figs.

Tonight the Everglades will be in my dreams,
But, I think it will forget about me,
As quickly as they can.

V. Castellanos – 1998

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