Waorani Legend (With Appropriation)

In throngs of roots around sangre        de drago trees sleep bones       of girls bagged inland,
drugged, & brought downstream to sell       & buy again in Coca. Their glow       beneath a full
moon spells       the rainy season & they rise like clotted                  cream, mushroomed from
prayer circles.

The woman, bone-skinned       & Canadian paid a team of mud-fleshed men to paddle her per
diem       to these little graves. Hammocked on a sheet, grunts       swung her to the open air
resort where gasoline fueled fans brushed jungle air into a poetry       of salamander-grey
mosquito nets. She slid       her silvery fat-soft land fish hands       between the map’s blue legs,
opened unclasped money clips—green as selva paste       flown in from Gringolandia.
She bartered cigarettes & rum for her quaint acquisitions: artisania from our shop
amid tacked posters under jaundiced glass of  horse-shouldered grandmothers       orphan
spider monkeys, marmosets, & sloths in smoke       hut common houses—it’s open to turistas
every Sunday.

We heard       her party tramping sweat & flattening       a hunting ditty used to hammer
out the night. She stabbed       a spoon into the earth & fished clean teeth       from under
roots. She ate the leaf-clod dirt.       She stuck a knife into a tree & cleaved       white jaws
from root. She cranked the blade,       shaved knuckles from our girls right at their finger’s foot.
She knifed a girl with root-dark fingers,       ate raw bone, left on foot. She fingered roots
& walked into the river, sheet in hand. She walked       a bag of bone chips to the shore. A
bag of bone chips       in her hand to bless her, bless your       bones. Absolve       your worries
in our shop.

She came here broken, ate our bones, & walked.

Lauren Brazeal’s first full-length collection of poetry Gutter was published by Yes Yes Books in 2018, and her individual poems and fiction have appeared in journals such as Verse Daily, Smartish Pace, Barrelhouse & Diagram. She is currently working on her second full-length collection of poetry, written at the behest of the Waorani people (an indigenous tribe in Amazonian Ecuador that she has worked with for the past 15 years).