Along the dense extremities of the forest north
that advance across the Panamanian isthmus,
ancient bridge for mustang, panther, and bear,
the trunks of towering andirobas intertwine
interminably in unfettered mahogany abandon.
Their barks are host to a protean foxfire that
radiates iconographic images in a flowing
expressionist relief of mythic proportions.
Travelers who venture this trek witness
these mutations and are soon transfixed.
Denied hopes coalesce, enrapture the weary.
Anguished women cradle the luminous souls
of dead babies and old friends half forgotten
in this swirling meccano of empires and loves.
The wasted alternatives of life are unveiled.
Though indios and neobiologists urge them
to flee the hypnotic force of such coercions,
these errant pilgrims prostrate themselves in
a mad chorus of wails and call the forest wall
Mural del Dios Verde, Mural of the Green God.
Along the avaricious trail of the forest south,
to the steep windswept cliffs of Patagonia
that rise ragged above rock-strewn beaches,
the emerald hunger stretches farther still
to taint the freezing waters off Cape Horn.
The winds that rake these seas now blow
from the north, warm, fragrant with pollen,
as if the forest could root on the icy cap.
Glassine flounder and neon frogs rain down
to pummel the decks of passing steamers.
But the gun-crack calving of melting bergs
and the slow thaw that extends the seas’ reach
expose no sure foothold for the forest to claim.
Even the shapeshifting woohli has yet to adapt
to the rough hibernal currents of this ocean.
The polar mariners who sail this route watch
the skies, cross themselves, shake their heads,
wonder if the next storm will be even stranger.
Beneath their breaths they curse the forest as
El Diluvio del Diablo, The Deluge of the Devil.
Along the clawing tendrils of the forest east
that cloak the Amazon and its serpentine
tributaries—Madeira, Jacunda, Japurá—
once thriving passages for trade and travel,
only the most bestial of tribes now survive.
At dusk from the hills of Macapá and Belém
you can see the flicker of their campfires
against the gravid green of a dark horizon.
In less than a generation they have morphed
with the forest and are no longer human.
Forging a symbiosis with the force that
rules their world, some are viridescent,
mimicking the foliage that surrounds them.
Others, covered with bony plates, often
prey on all fours like porcine armadillos.
From Caracas in the North to the ramshackle
slums of Rio and São Paulo and Buenos Aires,
those who remain in the coastal enclaves call
the forest Creación Oscura, Dark Creation,
El Enfermo, Diseased One, Salvaje, Savage.
Along the sweltering frontiers of the forest west,
striping the Andean foothills with wide shadows
and blanketing their no longer snowy heights,
the spikes of thousand-meter bromeliads sway
like the minarets of an organic metropolis.
The great reaches of flora that line these
slopes seem to roar in their rushing before
opening the cores of their inflorescence and
clasping entire settlements in a snap embrace.
A tenderizing mucilage bathes their spoils.
Those who flee this furious onslaught take
refuge in the lightless swamplands below and
return to pay homage, seeing these carnivorous
plants as rampant evolution running in reverse,
mankind succoring and serving the landscape.
The pathetic pageantry of their stark display
culminates in a sacramental sharing of pulcre,
an hallucinogen brewed from this succulent.
Stray revelers whisper the forest’s name as
La Bestia Caprichosa, The Capricious Beast.
In the impermeable fortress of the forest depths,
where each generation of growth destroys the last,
where each generation of fauna devours the last,
a sentience amoral and earthly dreams that the
only word for forest is el Mundo, the World.
—Bruce Boston and Robert Frazier