by Ellen Davis 


At Chichén Itzá someone died climbing the almost
vertical steps. On the bus to the pyramids
a woman sat near us. I ought be become
what her church called "a completed Jew."
The American’s brittle character drew in
my mother as well. Small shacks lined the highway.
Impossibly young children in bright tatters begging.
Straw roofs, foliage from heaven.
The tourist had heart failure on the fiftieth step.

At the site, our guide showed us
the world’s first soccer stadium.
She spoke of her unrecoverable past,
her apricot blouse a shade
lighter than her skin, her square,
chiseled face a relic of that loss.
The Mayas played on a wide plane
larger than football fields.
They kicked human skulls. The winner was rewarded
for valor by a fast sacrifice. The pits
for the bodies were round and deep.
Despite the heat, we walked through the afternoon.
I remember telling that lover
it wasn’t over between us.
One knows the pull of the body.
I saw him, though, only in dreams, behind glass.
We crouched our way through the dank caverns.
In the meridian sunlight our guide told us
the story of the nineteenth century priest
who allowed thousands to be burned. I climbed
the steps of Chichén Itzá, attentive now
to my mother who I suddenly worried might fall.

Copyright © 1999 by Ellen Davis.


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