I live in the middle of the jungle,
Lianas for my roof,
Just me and Amelia Earhart
Beneath the jungle moon.
I live between rivers without rhythm,
With the sound of the rain on the leaves;
I live without news of the world —
Toucans stand a noisy guard.
Before the war, rumor had it I ran
Guns and nitro over back roads; I spied
For some foreign power; in the dead of night,
I stole sweet girls; I sold
Secrets and lives without regret.
I had a plantation then on the edge of the wild.
Locals hiding behind the trees surrounding the lawn,
Whispered among themselves, or silently watched me
Sitting on the verandah sipping gin and tonic,
Or napping, panama pulled down over my eyes.
Once I was the apparel I wore — silk shirts,
Creamy white linen suits — I was pleasing to the eye.
When I left, I left it all. Behind me,
From windows and balustrades, clothes torn to tatters
Flapped gaily in the breeze. All I took was
A bowler, umbrella, and a deck of cards.
I sit with my back to a palm tree
Flipping cards into the hat.
Kings and queens skim the rim
And then fall in. Each time I win
I howl monkey shouts that shake the leaves;
Parrots stop their screaming green flight;
The jaguar demon holds his breath.
News of my vanishing thrummed from village drums
Across the jungles, rumbled into towns
On the savannah, tumbled around bars
Where some men spoke my name with an awe
Greater than before the dark air was thick with drink,
The rough wood walls and floors stained with sweat.
Others spat at talk of me and said they knew
What I’d done during the worst of the war,
How I’d changed sides all of a sudden,
The way the rains come. And the tales grew,
The deeds beyond any one man, even two.
Sometimes, in the telling, I die. Still they grow
( Who am I to stand in my way ? ) like vines
So thick between trees you barely see sky.