How to Die in Peru by Kendra Langdon Juskus

 

Peel your fear like a fruit,
and the lemon-eyed monkeys will come.
One will trade its terror with you,
sinking the teeth of it
in your wrist. From that point,
think only of dying.

Take a river boat from Yurimaguas to Iquitos.
Follow the rasped rumor of pink dolphins
on muddy waters.
Pour each outrageous sunset
over your hands your arms
the hair of the one you love
like grenadine.

Do not let your death
out of your sight.

In lifting the whiskers of a coconut
to your lips or licking mango juice
from the inside of your elbow,
do not lose your grip on your death.
Do not lose your taste for it,
when the siete raices in the brown bottle
drags its nails down your throat
each night on the boat
where everyone cocoons in their hammocks
and no one else thinks of your death.
You must not forget it.

Do not lend it, in the neon night
of Iquitos, to the American businessmen
or the Indian girls on their arms,
the artists hawking their heartswork on the river flats:
do not give it away,
they have their own deaths to die.

Hold it, hold it
in your mouth like a day-glow
Peru Libre, like the toast given before the Libre,
to the future.

 

KENDRA LANGDON JUSKUS is a writer and editor whose poetry has appeared in Literary Mama, Ruminate, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and the collection City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness (UChicago Press). She is an associate poetry editor at BOAAT and lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina.