Those are not gods, but men, in ships passing
on the horizon. No need to give praise,
or offer sacrifices to the sky
or to the sea. Waves won’t roar in anger,

no deity lives under them, no god
will thunder disapproval from the depths.
That pelican diving to scoop up fish
is no Christ-like symbol of self-sacrifice

that wounds her breast to feed her young her blood,
but just a greedy bird. That stag staring
at you has been a stag since birth; it is
not thick-leafed bearded Papa Bois who changed

his shape and to whom hunters must be kind.
That sultry voice serenading you from
the forest is only a village woman
hanging her laundry out to dry; it is

not Mama D’Leau, protector and healer
of river life, sitting by a stream. No
half-serpent sexual lady, snakes for
her hair, will harm you; worse, make you marry

her. So don’t take off your left shoe, turn
it upside-down and walk backwards until
you reach home. That’s all nonsense! Stupid stories
that ignorance sustains. Look, El Tucuche

is not the home of spirits rambling,
those screams are not the savage ecstasy
of bestial frenzy from forest demons
in brute copulation, but women

wailing for dead children, and a howler
monkey whose guttural bawl is not
a bluff rising above the mist exhaled
by this mountain over backward people

in villages entrenched in their beliefs.
Resist the urge to make too much of them.
Don’t offer empty praise. Your language lies
enough. But look, there’s money in those hulls!

Nigel Assam, a Boston University Creative Writing graduate. He was born and raised in Trinidad until the age of fourteen when he emigrated with his parents and sisters to the United States, settling first in North Miami, Florida, then Yonkers, New York. He has lived in the U.S. for over 30 years and currently resides in Baltimore where he works as a realtor.”