National Poetry and Writing Month: Day 19

Apologies for the delays in my “daily” poems. I’ve been busy over the course of Earth Day weekend, and I didn’t get access to a computer for that duration. I apologize, and here’s the continuation of “The Tree of Life”. To add a little more intrigue, we’re going to enter real-time story-telling.

August 6th:

Here I am at a hotel. I think the man from the bus lied, because this doesn’t seem to be the best hotel in town. I’m actually uncertain as to whether I even asked for the best hotel, but I think that’s what I said. “Sabes adonde esta una hotel mal, senor?” That’s, “Do you know where there is a good hotel, sir?” right? ‘Mal’ is ‘more’, right? Oh, I wish I had my Spanish dictionary here! Well, since it’s 10:00 PM, I should sleep now. The other bus leaves at 8:00 tomorrow morning, and I have to go to…wherever this letter says I should go. It sounds like a tiny place–the bus-driver looked confused when I told him, “Quiero ir a la Ritamata por favor senor.” I want to go to Rítamáta please, sir. He answered, “A Rítamáta? Por que vas alla?” I answered his question–at least, I think I told him–“I have business there.” He shrugged, and told me, “El autobús sale la hotel a ocho de la mañana.” I’m ready to go! Good night, diary.

The next morning, I had barely eaten breakfast when I saw the clock read 7:45. Of course, fifteen minutes wasn’t quite enough time to pack up my room and check out, but I managed somehow to do it anyway. I hope I didn’t leave my favorite pencil behind–oh well, a pencil is a small sacrifice for my father! 

I sat in the worn leather seat of the dirty bus, bouncing along the twisting roads. Spanish words sailed over my head, making conversation easy to ignore. I could only catch a few stray words, like “a la”, “en”, “vamos”, “encuentro”, and “que”. Nothing made sense. Out of sheer boredom, I unpacked the letter stolen from my mother, by now pretty crumpled. 

“Darn,” I muttered, “Mom wrote to a person in Mexico. Of COURSE he’s going to answer her in Spanish, that’s his first language. Now,’Hola senora’, hi, I guess…’el arbol esta en más cuentos…'” As I read on, the energetic Spanish words faded even more into the background, along with the din of the noisy bus. I only understood one word in three, but those words verified what I thought I was reading. “‘The tales all agree’,” I translated, “‘That the Tree of Life is somewhere near here, where I live in the small village of Rítamáta’.” That was the part I had grabbed from my quick review on the plane. “‘But Rítamáta is not where your destination should–be’? ‘Is not your destination’, yeah. Wait, what? ‘Instead, you must travel to a smaller village about half a day’s ride in a car south. This village has no name, but you cannot mistake it. The temple is said to be within ten miles of that village, much closer than Rítamáta is. If you cannot understand where to go, this photograph of Mayan hieroglyphs may help.'” I pulled out a small, black-and-white photograph. Squat runes, chipped away by time and weather, barely stood out against a ‘keystone’, or a group of symbols that together give meaning of others. “Good thing I thought to study a book on Mayan,” I murmured. I slipped that book out of its pocket and began to study.

“The Temple of Life,” I translated, “holds the sun. Look towards Quetzalcoatl and find the arm that points to violence of love. Upon the work of this love you find the Temple.’ That’s just dandy, but it’s nowhere near Rítamáta…wait, that’s right!? Nowhere near Rítamáta?!” I sprang up in alarm, stuffing my resources back into my bag. Stumbling towards the front of the bus, I stumbled along in Spanish. “Uh, señor! Uh, no, uh, no quiero, uh, no quiero, no quiero ir a la, uh, al Rítamáta. Si, no queiro ir a la Rítamáta. Puede Usted, uh, ayuda yo a…un pueblo sin un nombre?” I was trying to say, ‘Sir! I actually don’t want to go to Rítamáta. Could you help me get to a village with no name?’ Really, how was he going to help me get to a village if he didn’t know what it was called?

“Que?” he cried, what? He began to rave in rapid Spanish. I could only understand that he was only going to Rítamáta and anywhere else would be unacceptable, and he didn’t even know if I had money to pay him, anyway. That last part was actually true; I only had a few traveler’s checks left, and he certainly wouldn’t take one of those.

“Sale!” He cried, stopping the bus, “Sale, ahora! AHORA, oyes, señorita? Sale!” Leave! Leave, now! NOW! Do you hear me, miss? Leave! The bus doors rattled open, protesting loudly, and I stumbled down the steps. With a glare the bus driver started the engine again and lurched down the dirt road, letting me cough in a cloud of dust. The bus rapidly shrank into the distance, silence reigning. 

“Well?” I said to myself aloud, “Now what?”

There we are! Our main character is standing on the road who-knows-where, trying to get to a village that has no name, searching for the Tree of Life, which is the only thing that can save her father, in a foreign country where she can barely speak the language!

I’m going to be back soon to update the poems for recently!




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