This poem was written while visiting the Mayan ruins at Tulum, Yucatan, Mexico. I was last there some 30 years ago and wrote a number of poems while sitting on the “Castillo” overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
- Return to Tulum
Like tall reeds moving with unison in a jungle pool
the selfie sticks clump together in swarms
before the ancient monuments of Tulum.
Plastic smiles consume their posterity
Right where I had sat alone with reverence – thirty years ago.
Can sacredness penetrate unbridled progeny,
of opulence, entitlement, noise and distraction?
Vacant minds of pasted smiles.
Thirty years since I visited the walled city of Tulum.
Now finding it sequestered behind ropes and security,
the price of graffiti, looting and volley ball.
The ancients could still be heard,
presence emerging with stillness and respect,
though Silent to oiled sunbathers.
Whistle blowing security guards usher hooligans
from forbidden coastal bays and ceremonial locations,
march them out of where they cannot be.
Years ago I occupied similar space,
but was bound with reverence.
No security guards to police my silent awe.
A whispered wish for moderns to register with Mayan intelligence.
The Gods still Face All Ways,
provide a beacon of memory and history.
Perhaps the selfies art will find matter in time
- to comply with reverence and respect
- to replace benumbed fate in a global civilization
intent on destruction.
Then other swarms at last appeared.
Legions of people carrying the banner of languages.
Serious, bolder, organized, marching in order
like legionnaires, phalanx by phalanx.
From Japan, schools, Europe, Mexico, Everywhere –
tutored by multilingual guides, interpreters and sages
carrying knowledge of Maya intelligence.
These legions dwarfed the selfies and hooligans
and the Gods That Face All Ways
were recognized, not mocked.
With relief, Venus, the evening star of the Maya
appeared in the night sky,
as the walled city of Tulum emptied.
A murmur of Halach Uimic dynasty vibrated
through the five openings of the walled city
into the ceremonial center,
then East to the Castillo.
Misnamed by Juan de Grijalva in 1518,
this majestic monument never a castle.
It was a great palace, crowned by a temple
commanding the cliff top,
sloping steeply to the Caribbean Sea.
Complete with blood stained sacrificial stone,
Decades ago, before brazen tourism and tight security
I sat by this Upper Temple.
Alert to frightening corner-stones facing West.
Emulated masks with mouths wide open and teeth bared.
I stayed for hours – a healthy distance from the sacrificial stone.
Thirty years on I found a similar stone at the foot of the monument,
on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Outside the security rope I sat quietly upon the stone.
Silently tuning-out the hundreds of passers-by.
And there it was…
the mesmerizing energy from time before.
Then, I could not put pen to paper.
Now, I can.