A Father’s Day Poem

0619161333Several years ago, my daddy was working to establish a wildlife preserve in Belize.  His various duties, coupled with his love of nature, led him frequently on solitary excursions into the bush for days or weeks at a time.  These excursions resulted in many notable adventures, but I have commemorated my favorite one in the poem below.  On this particular occasion, while squatting down, Daddy noticed a jaguar walking casually through the jungle some distance away. The jaguar also noticed him.  Then, slowly, it began to walk toward him.  At this point most people (including me) would have stood up, scooted off to the tent, and hoped for the best.  But Daddy is not most people.  He was so fascinated and thrilled by the rarity of the moment that he remained motionless, still squatting there and hoping that the great cat would come even closer.

It did.

In fact, it got so close that Daddy could have reached out and touched its nose.  He says he remembers being able to hear a fly buzzing around its ear.  So there was a moment, deep in the jungles of Belize, when a human and jaguar were gazing at each other curiously, eye to eye, only a few feet apart.  At some point, Daddy realized the potential danger he was in and slowly stood up, which was all it took to convince the jaguar to leave.

When I decided to write a poem about the encounter, I thought the title might be “The Jaguar,” but in the end, I decided to tell it from the jaguar’s perspective and changed the title accordingly.  I even switched the buzzing fly to Daddy’s ear instead of the jaguar’s.  The poem’s theme plays with the idea that the jaguar may have been more nervous about the encounter than my daddy.  Poachers hunted in the area (keeping them out was one of Daddy’s jobs) and had no doubt taught the jaguars to fear humans.  The speaker is the jaguar, singing to one of his skeptical friends about the time he had the courage to stand eye to eye with the fiercest predator on earth: man.


The Man

In the jungles of Belize

Beneath the breadnut trees

I smelled a man today.

And when I saw him squatting there,

So calm and pale and bare,

I did not run away.


Even though I saw that he

Was also watching me,

I padded closer still.

A buzzing fly around his ear

Bore witness to how near

I drew to feel the thrill.


Who believes the one who sings

These strange and sacred things

Of such a violent race?

Will you believe when you have heard

That human breath once stirred

The whiskers on my face?


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