National Poetry Month ends today, and I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my poetry and Mary Oliver’s with you. I ended this month of celebration with one of my favorite poems, inspired by a visit to Coba in the Yucatan peninsula in 1985.
My first husband and I started visiting Mazatlán and then the Yucatan peninsula in the early 70s and fell in love with the Cancun, of that era. A church friend educated us on how to travel to Mexico at the time: don’t drink the water, the need to get money exchanged before going, etc. At that time, my basic Spanish consisted of, ¿Dónde está el baño?, but I loved trying to communicate with the locals.
We returned a couple times before we divorced, but we didn’t visit any Mayan ruins. After our divorce, my friend, who advised us, and I traveled to Mexico several times and then on to Guatemala because of our fascination with the Mayan ruins.
During this time, I also finished my minor in Spanish. I spent the spring semester of 1986 in Mazatlán, living with a family. One of my favorite Spanish instructors went with us, twelve students in all. So, I enjoyed talking to the Mexicans and experiencing the Mexican culture first hand and my Spanish improved immensely.
Since I first stepped foot on a Mayan ruin, I felt the presence, the rhythm of their history, echo through me. For some reason, I had a deep connection with those enchanting walls and structures from so long ago.
But this experience in Coba I will never forget. We found Coba accidentally, and also a lovely respite in the jungle where we stayed—a Club Med, but not the swinging single Club Med so many know from this time frame. This one was a research Club Med hidden away in the jungle.
I percolated this experience in my head for about a year, and easily I added magical realism to illustrate what I felt when I came upon Coba for the first time.
“Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy.”
Coba—I Was there!!
The year was 1985.
Walking down the jungle path with my friend,
an iguana crosses my trail—
toucan birds squeak above my head.
Heat from the jungle presses down upon us—
A turn in the road, thick over-growth blocks the sun
for a minute.
I see another iguana sunning on the dilapidated wall of the ruin,
peaceful and not going to do us any harm!
Shadows, sounds, smells—
transforms me back to 900 A.D.
A shiver pierces my soul—quietly Mayans step out
of the past,
brush my arm and surround me.
I stare at the crumbled ruins,
straining to see with my eyes their faces and
hear with my ears their voices.
But the silence continues,
the bees buzzing in the tops of the
Where am I? When? With whom?
A step back in time, yet caught between!
Had I been here before?
standing at the foot of this
temple, surrounded by my fellow Mayans,
worshipping the god “Chac” and
listening to the familiar
squeak of birds
The smell of incense fills the air—the mingled
odor of honey and grain—my sacrifice to my god.
The drum beats—beats, beats a familiar steady cadence.
Calls me to it
And breaks the eerie silence.
The priests chat—chat, chat soft sounds that join the
rumbling beat of the drum.
That beat echoes through my heart beat,
The heartbeat of everyone present
The heartbeat of the world.
I sway to the beat, the chat—
it vibrates in my soul, calling me,
calling me home!
Dark bronze skin, brown eyes, flat heads—
Feathery, vibrant green quetzal headdresses don heads.
Colorful gowns sway to the beat and the chant.
Small sturdy people crowd around me,
greeting me with a soft rhythmic tongue,
and my heart understands this strange language.
Gently, friendly—a spark shines in
THEY KNOW ME! I’m among my own. I’m home!!!
“Did you hear that? What was that?” my friend grabs my arm.
TRANSPORTED—GONE—REALITY, or is it? I’m back—it’s 1985.
The summer’s heat presses in,
the sun’s scorching heat—
eerie sounds and hums flow
through the air.
Eerie, yet familiar.
For a second,
I felt transported back,
I strain to hear it better—
to hear the beat of the past—
to see those familiar soft brown eyes.
I want to return!
For weeks, this poem seeped out of my pores, and I felt it was real. Was it real? Was it magic? I don’t know, but today, thirty-eight years later, as I read it, I felt transported back to the magic of Coba and my dramatic experience.
Have you ever had an experience like this? Have you seen any of the Mayan ruins? Anasazi ruins? Any Indian ruins? Do you connect with history in any way? Let me know.
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