All emerald and ochre,
Under a wet skin,
And, painted snails,
Wings and stings,
And, feathered things,
And, fearful things,
In the shadows,
In the shade,
Right or left,
A muck eel flood,
Leaves of jade,
Don’t be afraid.
Jump up or fade,
Circumvent, sidestep or wade,
Carved or curled up,
Above, below and all about,
Underbrush and brick-a-brack,
You’re it now. You can’t hit back.
Can’t run away and can’t backtrack.
Don’t try to hide.
Can’t go inside.
No, all entwined,
Tied up in vines,
The sunlight shines.
The birds a twitter,
Bright eyes glitter,
Sweet or bitter.
You stay here. I’ll go away,
I have to say I’ll be gone awhile,
But, I’ll be laughing. That’s my style.
And, I’ll wear an alligator smile.
All emerald and ochre,
Last night I dreamt again of the Everglades.
They have become an obsession.
I have imbued them with my suffocating adoration, and
My overwhelming greed.
I feel the romances there, throbbing under the ground,
In the green sap of the cypress trees.
It is spring again and they are in love with one another.
Their love is composed of the same force as gravity,
The same attraction that holds together atoms, molecules and solar systems.
It is the reason all of the ghost orchids bloom together on the same morning, and
Why all the wild heron sleep together in the same tree.
The wet, black, alligator earth knows it is spring.
She is dreaming of capture and kidnapping,
Of selfishly taking what is wanted,
Of never letting go.
She is dreaming of the kisses impressed by the footsteps of birds, and
The flicking of the lizards tails.
She would keep them forever if she could,
As permanent as tattoos,
Just as I would keep the kisses given to me, but
As this is not possible,
I sit instead with empty pockets,
Watching the beatles in the morning sun,
Put on their gaudy armor, and
Set out to conquer the world.
Who but the witch doctor morning glories,
Can read the contortions of the clouds?
Who else knows who will survive to see the green flash of the setting sun?
Who but the tree frog magus can understand the words of the raindrops?
Who else knows who will win and how far each will go?
I sit with empty pockets, and
I’m pleased to be in this vast, amoral space,
Where there are no angels and no devils,
Where neither good nor evil exist,
Where no one dies of a broken heart.
This is a catch as catch can world.
Images mean nothing and manifestation is everything.
Time is measured by activity, and
Everyone is known by the total results of their actions.
The immense illusion of serenity has begun to crack, and
Fall apart, revealing displays of competition and combat.
The tension of extraordinary desire.
The shadows break and reveal a cathouse of sex,
A demand for continuation,
A bordello of acquisition and submission,
A realization that immortality is not a possibility.
I would wish to stay here forever,
Delighting in things just the way they are,
Happy with the energy of being alive, right now.
I would fill my pockets with the intentions of rainbows,
Or, the inventions of the absinthe intoxicated ibis.
Perhaps when I awake the Everglades would have taught me to forget,
That life turns into nothing,
To remember that the only thing of importance,
Is your laughter, and
V. Castellanos – June 2013
I awoke before dawn in the Everglades
And, I asked my God to speak to me
But, if he answered, I could not hear
Because the bird’s songs suddenly soared
Louder than the thunder of the rising sun
And, the purple voices of the broad palmetto leaves
Rose in praise of the new day
The tone of the sweet, blue sky rang deep
And, the laughter of the clouds ran loud
The raven’s wings rang wide and full
And, the moss was full of bells
I could not hear his answer
Because the river’s melodies rose up
To join the uproar of the dragonflies
And, the whispers of the stars behind the daylight
I could not hear because of the cacophony of unfolding flower petals
And, the towering symphonies of the butterflies wings
I could not hear because the lizards were reciting ancient rhymes
And, the snails were telling tales of the Milky Way
I could not hear because of the ant’s arias
And, the ballads of the turtles
The moonflowers tempani
And, the caterpillar’s kettledrums
I asked my God to speak to me
And, I am still wondering
What his voice will sound like
When he answers
The Everglades do not want us,
We who would be kings,
We who would be scientists,
Would be magicians,
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,
Keep wanting. Reproduce.
Dancing to music we cannot hear.
Laughing with hurricanes.
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,
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,
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
I shall dance with the summer, sun filled days,
And, with the purple banners of dark evening clouds.
I shall dance with indigo skies and roaring rain,
With laughter, with simmering splashes,
With thunderous clashes,
Closing in for the coming storm,
And, the changes in its wake.
I shall dance with shattering, cut glass showers,
In the rush of the quickening, twilight hush,
Because rain flows in my veins,
Because my thoughts are contained,
In the dreams of serpents,
Asleep in the crevices of the banyan’s roots.
I shall dance in the perfumed, evening haze,
Because my flesh has been hoarded and distilled,
By the flowering jungle,
And, together we are standing, with expectations,
At the edge of the break of the ozone.
We are wondering if the wind has a will of its own.
We are wondering if the lightning,
Knows why it is heating the heart of the clouds,
Green as the tree frog’s back.
We are wondering if the rain had decided, before dawn,
It would awaken seeds today.
All I ask of you is not to interrupt,
The wonders of this rain-is-coming moment.
This moment is important,
This moment of hush,
This silk-chiffon, gray-cloud moment,
Of falling jacaranda petals,
When tangled tentacles of moss are set aquiver,
In awful twilight’s purple,
And, the Fates, succumbing to laughter or tears,
Disguise themselves or turn their heads.
I know I cannot become a part of the storm.
I can become neither a sunset nor a Jacaranda flower.
I am only a witness,
Inhaling the air,
Ingesting the rain,
And, internalizing whatever it brings.
I stand against the wind,
In puddles of lavender rhinestones.
I am willing to stand, on my own,
Against the convictions of others,
Against the thoughts of ages,
Against beliefs in yesterday’s traditions,
And, tomorrow’s rebellions,
Willing to stand, if I must,
Against even the wishes of clouds,
And, giant, ghost-stained oaks.
I am willing to let the storm strike my cheek,
And, announce the decisions of the Fates.
I am willing to wait for the universe,
Poised on its turning edge,
To make up its mind about what to do.
If the future has a will of its own,
Does that mean I have none?
The heartbeat of the storm has turned,
And, she has begun to close her eyes.
The crescent moon,
As orange as the beak of the Ibis,
Has rent the veil of clouds,
Which open their mouths,
And, whisper into the sky.
“They say I have changed,”
And, “So have you.”
Standing the watch alone.
Today it seems the world is so old,
It is no longer able to age,
And, even when my eyes are closed,
I can no longer bear to see shadows.
… Sometimes it is so easy to go,
Away from the marketplace,
Away from the mob,
To close all the doors,
And, to just live inside my mind.
Then, reality is anything I choose.
Time, which was probably,
The starting point for everything,
Time, which is not a river,
Which is not an arrow,
Not even a circle,
Is at my bidding, then.
As long as I am alone,
I can be anywhere, everywhere, nowhere.
I can be myself,
With neither delay nor permanence,
And, the only things I have to watch out for,
Are my own thoughts and my nightmares.
When I am all alone,
I ask the clouds to talk to me.
Sometimes they have nothing to say.
Do you not love me enough to speak?
Nor even enough to laugh with me,
When I laugh?
To smile with me when I am smiling?
There isn’t much of a lock on this door,
And, I suppose soon I’ll be going out again.
Perhaps I’ll go back to the Everglades.
There I can be alone and still be in the middle of everything.
There I can hang around with the goblins,
Who drink from the fountain of youth,
And, laugh at gravity.
I find it very easy,
To get used to walking about like an animal.
But, still, I am doing my best,
To keep the fire from burning out,
Because I know there are salamanders,
Who grow into magicians when it is dark.
And, I am still trying to learn to write in blood,
Every star had its own name,
And, long ago,
When campfires burned above the Everglades,
Although the stars were far away,
The sky was full of stories,
And, was carried by constellations.
But, like the residue of dinosaur’s shadows,
They have been distorted by yesterday’s memories,
Erased by today, forgotten by tomorrow,
Fallen into the fields,
And, carried away in the grasshopper’s skirts.
I once had a name of my own,
Before time began sliding away.
I had my own story then,
And, now I am sliding after it,
Because time has disconnected itself,
From the speed of light,
From the solar system,
From the beat of my heart.
Time has expanded,
Curled in on itself,
As smooth and hard and colorfully cold,
As an snail’s shell.
My memories, once as sharp as the spines,
Of the purple thistles.
And, now tease the way a promising summer rain does.
Sting like sandspurs or sand in the wind.
The lines of time,
Which once stretched straight,
Through my life,
Through the Everglades,
Through the black, mangrove smoke,
Over the campfires, into the night,
From here to infinity,
They have gotten away,
Have forgotten me,
Have forgotten themselves.
They have become confused between my fingers,
Have become jangled and tangled up.
They are interchanging the matrix of my childhood thoughts,
With the labyrinthine, interference patterns of old age.
Time has become unstable, elastic,
Has tricked my mind,
Made me blind,
And, wound around my wrists,
Taken me captive and turned me around,
Stolen my memories,
Tied me to the zodiac.
It lets me loose only between the seasons,
In unpredictable weather,
Or when the earth wobbles,
When days and nights are unequal,
When the polar stars change position,
When the names of stars are silently forgotten.
Under tonight’s nameless stars,
I again taste moonshine and turpentine,
The smell of black, mangrove smoke,
Brings tears to my eyes.
The stars above the campfires have gone out,
And, I have forgotten the mangrove smoke,
The grasshoppers and the dinosaur’s shadows,
And, the spines of the purple thistles,
Because all of this was so long ago,
And, long ago is as far away,
‘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,
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.
Have you heard the oyster’s
Have you heard the callings,
Of the blue whelks on the beach?
Have you heard the quite poems,
Of the salty, green-glass sea?
Have they said to you,
The things they say to me?
Or, have they whispered mysteries,
Only to your ears?
Neither the sea nor the Everglades,
Are ready to answer my questions.
The sea is forever restless,
And, the Everglades have no voice.
The swamp mud carries dark, magic spells,
And, the Everglades carry curses,
But, wherever you go, there are no caves,
With wind rushing out of their mouths.
They issue no warnings, no premonitions,
They sing no prophetic songs,
They will not tell me the future,
Nor give me a reason to be.
So, how do I know where to go,
To hear the voice of my Sybil?
I am beginning to think,
The questions I ask,
Do not have answers, yet.
Tomorrow, perhaps, they will no longer matter.
But, when I am in the Everglades,
Although there’s darkness in the shades,
The heron’s eyes are very jolly,
And, I am away from melancholy.
The wind is made of merry laughter.
Now, it seems, I can’t remember,
What it was that I came here after.
But, some time in the future,
All my questions will be answered.
by V. Castellanos – January 10, 1999