Monday, January 28, 2013

Creatures and Wonder

In January, I was lucky to spend 2 weeks in Costa Rica with a biology class from Westfield State University. We visited 4 distinct ecosystems with vastly different flora and fauna, and saw an incredible amount of wildlife thanks to our fabulous guides and the immense biological diversity in Costa Rica.

This is one of a few poems that I wrote during and after the trip. It's in blank verse, my favorite form for narrative. Also, this is the first time that I've included a link in a poem before, but the lizard mentioned is so cool I think you should know about it. All the other creatures you can look up on your own to learn more if you want. Enjoy!

Red Eyes and Pink Eye

After the third day in the rainforest
your eye swells up. You have been touching frogs,
stroking smooth green or speckled backs after
your guide disappeared to the midnight pond,
then returned with a jewel. He showed you the blue
streaked sides, the red webs between tiny toes.
He knows how to hold so they won’t struggle.
That morning he caught butterflies in nets,
held them in his hands, showed you their secrets.
The curled antennae. Front legs that can taste.
The wing where a bird took a beak-shaped bite.
The next day another guide explained birds:
Iridescent hummingbirds’ hide and shine,
woodpeckers tapping trees as a message.
By the pond you heard slap slap slap as the
Jesus Christ lizard ran upright across.
At night she took you to a field, turned off
the flashlights. You saw lightning bugs and stars.
She told you about pheromone ant trails,
owls’ faces shaped like satellite dishes
for better hearing, extra eye membranes.
You went to bed full of caiman eyeshine,
tadpoles, black-and-blue-striped skippers. You woke
eager for papaya, coffee, put in
your artificial eyes without washing.
So after the river float—the howling
monkey monsters guarding trees, iguanas
sunning themselves pleased as rocks, the toucans
flapping red, yellow and black through green leaves—
your beloved eyes ached pink, oozed yellow.
At la pharmacia a young woman
tells you to apply ointment twice a day
and chamomile teabags for swelling.
You are not a creature of the forest:
you’re a creature of grace and gratitude.

Rufus-eyed stream frog