Thursday, January 21, 2016

Too Tranquilo

Too Tranquilo in Guatemala

Chocolate-black sand
on this stretch of Pacific Beach
off the vast volcanic slope
that is southern Guatemala.
Spotted a bright white egret in the mangroves so far.
A lone tern wandering up and down the coast
flying just overhead while I bobbed in the swells.
And a long and curious line of pelicans,
like a wandering, dotted pencil drawing.
They gathered in one spot in the sky,
and then flew overhead single file
same distance apart one from the other, quietly organized.

Basura is on the sand and in the brush
and burning on the step-away streets.
Industrial smell of smoldering plastic.
Up in smoke may be better than in the tern's belly.
Two massive dark objects on the horizon.
Boxy, obvious right angles of man,
three distinct smoke stacks.
clear, even from my distance.
Staking a terrible claim to rake the ocean,
processing the catch on board into frozen ingots of lost wilds.

Shrimp is everywhere on the local menu,
because nearly all of the mangroves in the area
have been turned into shrimp farms.
Manatees and cranes and juvenile fish
become homeless overnight.
I can't eat the shrimp knowing this.
My silent boycott about as significant as a grain of sand.
The sole tourist boat
must charge $200 U.S. a head,
to buy gas to get out far enough,
to see big marine life.
Not sure if that's a product of anything or if it's always been that way.
But I imagine there was a time when you
could sit on the beach and see
whales and bottlenose dolphin, and maybe even a manta.

Vaunted turtle sanctuary in the ramshackle town,
just past Johnny's Saloon,
has empty pools with dry black sand in the bottom.
But also flat sand beds protected and marked off
as if growing tomatoes but nothing has sprouted yet,
not the tiny paws
or the small snout of a newborn sea turtle.
Life is brave the turtle says,
life is delicate and brief, but resilient,
to a point.
The turtles hatch and are corralled into mesh cylinders,
later they are set off into the ocean,
like seeds in a brisk wind.
Stuff whatever money I have in my pocket
into their donation box.
Someone is trying.
Lizards, birds, insects, marine life, mangroves?
All quiet. Too tranquilo.