Finally there is the canopy that fronts the sky, where
the sun-loving vines, perchers, and larger trees fower
A blob in the steaming overhang of trees,
small figure in a wool hat, parka,
winter leggings . . . Closer, an old woman wrapped
in ratty furs,
as if in a chilly bedroom, barely moving.
A face only a mother could love:
limp mustache, close-cropped head,
wide-spaced eyes, look of an aged nun.
She bites a few cecropia leaves
that brush her chin, stretches her neck up
toward more. Food enough for her
sleepwalking and contemplation.
The twenty-first century arriving here will find
she lacks industry. No stoles from her, skins
or medicines. She chews each stalk exactly
seventeen times, leaves sloth-droppings,
will bear one sloth: another furball in a tree,
leaf masticator, local frump
among darters and glinters, red howlers,
leather-wing flappers, goatsuckers, screechers.
The season the Amazon fills with itself
and drowns all but the treetops, she lets
herself down carefully, claw by claw,
claw over claw. The same absent reaching
through water as through air, as though
she were preoccupied, or occupied
some third, true element, elsewhere.
© Carole Bernstein