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Bathing in the Amazon
by Haleh Liza

Every morning, I walked through the jungle,
 down to the river to bathe.
Every morning, through the green heart of the world
     pulsing with animals songs—

insect and bird polyrhythms and melodies that cradled my psyche like a hammock
       cradles a body:
magical music of the original home.
Deep in my cells,
      I craved it.
Deep in my cells, I still reveled in it as
     I walked through the jungle
down to the river to bathe.

In my hands, every morning, for twelve days,
the bucket and bowl the shaman gave me,
and in my bowl
     a fresh batch of leaves—
       Guayusa leaves—
Antiseptic!" the shaman said,
     our soap and shampoo
     with a faint scent of eucalyptus,
cleanses the body,
     cleanses the aura
"all you need, he said,
     all you need."

I walked past monkeys chatting high in the sunlit canopy,
     past a ghost white village of sprouting fungi,
past the buttressed roots of the Remo Caspi—

that grand and towering Remo Caspi tree
like a vaulted column in a Gothic church
     turned on its head,
     always emanating a quiet power,
      drawn up like mineral and water from the holy soul of Earth.

I walked,
     down a steep slope,
sometimes slick with mud
     stepping from stone to exposed root
all the way down to the pebbly bank and into the river
till I could reach my bucket under a rushing spout, fill it half way,
and heave it up back to shore

Tear the Guayusa leaves, drop them in the bucket, and give it time to warm in the sun,
the shaman had told us.

I left my torn, floating leaves in a jagged patch of morning light
and swam across the river to the opposite bank
     where a low wall of red clay gleamed.

Crumbles of clay came loose at my touch,
     enough to mash with stone and cover my whole body
till I looked like I’d emerged from a wall of adobe—
     a Persian wall of adobe from a mystical but
wounded ancestry,

a woman emerging from the wall
     inside of me,
to rest on a Peruvian riverbank,
     and finally breathe.

Sentient plants of the jungle,
     in teas of wine red and deep burgundy
     we sipped and gulped over twelve days.
Healing force of mother nature,
carried in the plants,

and what names…

Renaquia, Eeporuro, Tawari
Bobinsana, Una de gato, Chuchuwasi.

"they cleanse the blood,"
the shaman, the botanist, the poetess in the kitchen said

and Ayahuasca,
she scans the body while floating above,
she finds
     what is burning and what is frozen,
she massages
helps dislodge what needs to go.

She can drag scrims of sunlight across your womb, if that’s what you need,
she can chase a scorpion out of your soul,
     call in a hummingbird to hover round your mind
and use its beak
     tipped with nectar
to recircuit and rewire
     as she nudges you to wellness.

She can call the woman out from inside the wall,
     and point to the path that will lead her home—

she leaves the rest to us.

I swam back to my bucket of water and Guayusa leaves,
as the tight skin of sun-dried clay shed with ease in the river.

I rubbed the torn and soaked leaves across my body
trailing their faint green, antiseptic oil and
     wafts of wildflowers all across my skin
my arms, my legs, my belly, my breasts.

I lifted my bucket and poured the fragrant water over me
and I still pour the waters over me.
     Every morning,
baptized by the jungle,
I remember.

I cleanse the waters inside me,
I tend to the rivers that call me.


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