Chepo, Panama

Chepo, Panama

It didn’t end the way we thought it would,  
the road, the land it drove through which
wasn’t Spain, wasn’t Mexico, wasn’t
anything we’d imagined. We’d coasted
the Pan-American for months, from village to city
to village, that big slide down mountains,
the butterflies I thought at first  
were bluebirds, that big,  but it wasn’t
what we thought we were getting and
the dust and the heat and all those little borders
and their little border guards,
fingers sly in our box of cookies.
We had dust and heat; rice and beans.
I thought we could fill up all
that emptiness with what we wanted it to be.
But we got tired, we got to what
we discovered was the end. Panama.
In that last town, in the ring, the dust,  
the bull was in fact a cow and
with no ritual,  no dignity, the matador
didn’t kill anything. That afternoon we swam
in the shallows of the river, looking into the thin trees
that began the jungle, the Darien Gap, as if
we had a question it could answer,
a river full of villagers looking mildly at us.
We slept that night beside the river,
keeping company in that small faithful car.
It was time to go. In the darkness, I was close
to blind, and when, in the night, something came
round the half-rolled windows, I could
see at first only shapes coming up around us
like our future, the one I thought
we could read. Shapes moving slowly,
curious, harmless, as they raised their
large, mild heads to our windows
and wondered at us, a herd of cattle,
their white hides dark in the night,
shining in that night, harmless around us.
Me close to blind.

From (alive): Selected and new poems, Wolsak & Wynn, 2004

© Rhea Tregebov

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