Prompt: Farewell poem
Reference: Poetry Foundation, farewells and good luck; Vicki Bonnell, “Phantom Ranch” from Contemporary Haibun Online; Albizia saman; Aimee Nezhukumatathil, “More than the Birds, Bees, and Trees: A Closer Look at Writing Haibun“
Papaya forests blur past the window. Yellow-green carpet of gentle fronds, leaves the size of dinner plates. Papayas run out and the evergreen forests rise. Long-needled, sweet-cones, canopy-shade the highway. One side is Pacific cliffside. The other traps you against the Cone. One whispers the Lake is actually summit to the old Cone, and to get to the Lake, you must climb the Cone. But you can not park just anywhere on the highway.
One overgrown patch of highway shoulder. Eroded mile marker number, vine-cluttered, shaded by pine cones. One wild patch of road, faint between the pines and papaya patch. Take a chance.
The road forks left – to the right forsaken lava boulders and a’a’ fields concealed by nameless brown vines grow papaya in infinite neat rows. All are plucked clean of fruit. All grow yellow leaves in the drought. All glow golden in the afternoon, like the fruit they yield. Sweet and quick to the teeth. Infinity is unsatisfactory.
The road is blocked by rock smoothed by constant rain and green moss and rusted barbed wire. Someone a long time ago decided to mark off territory and wall off his land from the marching papaya patch. Scale over the boulders, mind the barbed wire. Someone decided a long time ago to bend the wire hither so you could climb over. Mind the mosquito clouds and hairy caterpillars.
Bring a bottle of
water. Prepare for a hike.
Stage one: A green patch.
Over the rocks and down a steep hill, a clearing with a tub of water. Beyond the clearing is a neglected path. To the right is an impenetrable wall of rock and rainforest. If you are brave and aimless, wander into the gloom and poke the vertical wall completely hidden in the trees. Could be the ancient Cone. Could be a sleeping volcano. Could be a shelved Goddess plan.
A locked gate. Slip through the gaps. Poke thorny makahiya to sleep. The trees grow short. The canopy yields to ashen sky. It is always ready to rain near the Cone. Always overcast. Cloudy. Murky. Slip below the branches of an ancient monkeypod tree. There is the highway three-quarters to your left. There is the house that won’t help you. There are their fields, neat rows of grass. There are their fences, barbed wire hung between rotting oak posts.
Take the path to your right. Two neat rows of earth lay shaved and exposed for you. Someone’s been here many times before, many, many times. They won’t help you. Dive into the darkness of the canopy. Dive under the leaves of the vast acacia tree.
Take a care about the mud. Someone’s tried to build a staircase here before. They used the roots of ancient saman, cousins or brothers of the one guarding the way. Part the leaves. Step over rotting eaves. Step over water. There. The shore. Green Lake. Its Cone rises on the opposite rim. Try the water off the swing of thick rope hung from a young guardian.
The surface is flecked with lily and leaves from the raintree and fronds from a hidden coconut palm. The water is teeming with microbes. The water is absolutely still. Mirror. Freshwater. They say below the surface, the water turns salty. The Lake is connected to the Sea. Swim deep, find the entrance.
Another stillwater mirror, an underwater lake. Saltwater is heavier. Dive into the lake. Swim farther, deeper. Brave the pitch tunnels. Brace against the cold. No longer can the Goddess protect you. The current fights you. It wants to take life from you. They could use all the life on the side of a volcano, and your virulent recklessness is invigorating fuel. At some point, the Goddess pities you, and she rises under you. Pushes you to light. Breaks the surface for you.
If at that point, the
waves don’t take you, the isle shuns
you. Has escaped you.
You wake. You turn back. There are the wild horses legend says guards the lake. They block the paths, one before the locked gate. Slip through the cracks. A family blocks the next path. Greet them.
Food, food. Don’t you run.
Escape is that way. That way.
Turn around. Turn back.
They follow you to the clearing. They drink from their water tub. They wait for your turn. They’ve been watching all the long while. Someone takes care of them. See how they wait. You scale the steep hill. Grab some barbed wire. Hoist your burdens over mossy rock. Take the elusive Map with you. Hurry. There’s an evening squall just beyond the Cone.
Papaya trees sway,
horses wait for golden dusk.
Map to the Green Lake.