Kayaking the Everglades…Never!

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Kayaking the everglades is both exhilarating and foolhardy.  Each thrust of the oar into the moss-covered water propels you a few feet further into an unknown destiny, whether that be a divine photo-op of cormorants fishing beneath the shade of a bald cypress, or to put yourself down as the special-of-the-day on a gator’s lunch menu.

Imagepulled my kayak to the water’s edge and settled into a launch site not twenty feet from an alligator nestled in the sparse cattails lining the shore.  I had not even noticed his presence until I was ankle deep mud-sucked into the water’s edge, prepping my kayak for the day’s journey.  I only looked up because of an eerie “hiss” I heard as I placed my camera in the watertight hold of the boat.  I glanced up and there he was.  All twelve feet of him!

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It was a hot, moist morning absent the cooling breezes of the previous day.  Salted sweat trickled down my chest and forearms, requiring little effort on my part as I warily eased my kayak into the still waters near the sun-bathing gator, whose lizard eyes were locked on my every move.  To reinforce his primacy in this back-water environment, his massive jaws opened ever so slowly to reveal two rows of sharp daggered teeth.  While my limited knowledge of Florida gators reassured me that he was merely cooling down, I chose to interpret the gesture as an invitation to dinner.  I backed away another twenty feet.

Slowly, I eased my blood-red kayak into the water, never once breaking the stare-down I was engaged in with this pre-historic reptile.  I strategically placed the boat between me and the lounging lizard of death, but I knew in my gut, which was slowly churning in warning, that this was a vain effort. So to reassure myself (or further delude myself!) my left hand fell upon the sheathed Bowie knife I had attached to my belt.  Instead of bolstering my confidence, I suddenly felt like a child who had brought a pop-gun to a high noon shoot out at the O.K. corral.

I gently stepped into the kayak and pushed off with the gator-side oar.  As the bow of my craft quietly knifed through brackish water, the silence was cut short as the gator, too, entered the bayou.  I paddled four times for every single effortless swish of his giant tail.  This was not good.  Not good at all.  His eyes, which had been locked on me since my foolish arrival, suddenly slipped beneath the greenish waterline. 

No, this was not good at all!  Where had he gone???

With several deep, full-armed strokes to my left, I reversed course and headed back to shore only slightly less quickly than my heart was then beating.  I crashed up the embankment and bolted from my kayak.  I sprinted through the low grass toward the parking lot and the relative safety of my nearby waiting truck.  I left my $3,000 Pentax in the captain-less kayak; a peace offering should the alligator choose to accept it.

But he never resurfaced.  I waited for a full half-hour, scanning the water for any sign whatsoever of my dinner-host before I braved the slow, methodical return for my boat and my camera. And then I saw his eyes break the water once more.

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Fuck the Everglades. Fuck my kayak and my camera, too!  I returned to my my truck, shakily turned the ignition, and headed north, to Orlando.  I heard they just refurbished the “It’s a Small World” ride…just my pace.

Fight, My Brothers

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Fight, my brothers, boys to men
And if you fall, to God ascend
Swear your oath on bended knee
Take up your march to victory

Do not fear to be laid low
Each hero has his story told
Arise my brothers, on lifted tide
Right this wrong – or else we die

For every decent thing within
Come we upon whose lives depend
Into the fray we march and send
The boldest and the best of them

Though weary, faint, and sore afraid
Through cold of morning, heat of day
We cannot take another way
Our path is clear, we’ve naught to say

Cross mountains high and valleys low
In starlight bathed and moonbeams glow
With every bone and sinew bowed
For every oath and debt we owe

Into the night and far beyond
Cross fiery fields, o’er foggy ponds
Our path is clear, so brothers bond
Take up your arms and carry on

Our time has come to march this road
For each of us must bear this load
To sacrifice what’s been bestowed
To ante up a measure owed

To live and die with equal grace
We must unite and hold this place
Conscious damned, I’ll plead my case
Prepare your foe to lay to waste

A new and evil day emerges
Full of hate and dreadful scourges
Sing loud and full your deathly dirges
Be stout of heart, your song, it purges

Ignore your fears, a devil’s charm
And when in doubt a haughty song
Lift up your eyes and carry on
Steadfast into the setting sun

Fight my brothers, with heads held high
Anything less and we all die
In battle pitch our freedom lies
We have no time to sympathize

With shoulders broad take up your arms
The threat before shall be disarmed
Quick-step into the fog of harm
So those we love may carry on

And do not wince or flee this place
A coward’s doubt is his disgrace
Be true to your brothers, stay this place
For yours is not to throw this race

Be brave. be sure and quick in pace
March beyond this arduous space
Laid low by arrows, bow and mace
Each death revealed upon your face

Though rivers tinged with blood may flow
Onward brothers, onward go
What lies ahead you cannot know
In brotherhood entrust your soul

And when the battle’s spent and won
We’ll lay to rest our bravest sons
Let their honor be widely known
For not all of them will make it home

Awakening Our Memories

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We shall sail through the air a thousand country miles –
watch the falcons pirouette in the summer sky;
lunch upon bitter green apples and fermented mangoes
and nap beneath the cool luminous clouds;
quench our thirst with melodious wine
and toss stones down upon frozen lakes.

We shall immortalize poets against the echoing granite walls of time.
In bare feet we will land and dance in verdant green meadows
that carpet a bottomless valley;
trace our fingertips along the gnarled grooves
of a dying oak and bid it farewell.

We will bathe in babbling brooks that giggle at
our nakedness and dry ourselves in the wispy autumn winds.
Upon mountaintops, we shall squeeze sunsets between
our forefinger and thumb and slowly open them again to
the shimmering glow of a new moon.

We shall sleep beneath a canopy of universes and compose
our dreams against shimmering stars;
build wet sandcastles fit for kings on foreign shores
and feed them to the ravenous surf.

Beneath cascading waterfalls we’ll write tumbling
verse, while angelfish nibble at our dropped metaphors.
In the Mascarene Islands, we will fly kites built from
forest reeds and raffia palms until they are swallowed
by drifting winter clouds.

The return to a new day awaits us, and a thousand more
miles beneath our balloon before this life is drawn complete.
Awakening a memory, we close our eyes
and the colors of life’s possibilities explode beneath our lids.