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!