Love You Excavation Work

By Donald Platt

Featured Image: Diana and Actaeon (Diana Surprised in her Bath) by Camille Corot, 1836


I am texting you

some trivial message like “Am at grocery. Where are you?”

using Siri,


the intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator,

oracle inside

my iPhone. But when I sign off, saying “Love you


exclamation point,”

Siri translates it as “Love you excavation work.” I send the message



Siri’s right.  Loving you for the last twenty-seven years has been


work. It has been like discovering El Mirador, the “Lookout,”


lost city

of the Maya, three thousand years old, overgrown with jungle, once home to

200,000 people,


now the residence of poisonous fer-de-lance snakes, ocellated

turkeys with iridescent

green wings, blue necks and heads barnacled with orange and red


wart-like nodules,

spider monkeys, white-nosed coatis with barred tails, spectacled owls, toucans,

red-eyed tree frogs,


jaguars, great curassow birds, and howler monkeys whose aspirated roars,

says Chip Brown,

adventurer, author, and journalist extraordinaire, “cross the basso


profundo of an African

lion with the sound of metal grinding on a lathe.”

In El Mirador


they raised pyramids to you—the Tigre Pyramid, the Jaguar Paw Temple,

and La Danta

Pyramid, rising over 230 feet from the jungle floor.


Early aviators,

including Charles Lindbergh, thought the pyramids were volcanoes when they first

flew over. It took


15 million man-days of labor to build La Danta, 12 men to carry

each thousand-pound

block.  In El Mirador’s Central Acropolis they’ve unearthed


two 26-foot

carved stucco panels showing the hero Hunaphu in a jaguar headdress

swimming a river


and bearing the decapitated head of his father back from the dark

Lords of the Underworld

to the land of the living. The Maya believed their “first father” was resurrected


as the Tonsured Maize God

every spring and depicted him growing from the earth’s turtle shell

flanked by his twin


sons. Would that I too could bear my dying mother on my back

and swim the river

that separates the dead from the living. Instead, her face will rise like the full moon


and shine down

on these ruins, give me light to dig by. I sift soft dirt

through my fingers


and find pottery shards that I glue back together. It will

take decades,

but every night I reassemble them, so that you, my wife, my million-piece


jigsaw, my excavation

work, may sit again on your jaguar-skin throne, black orchids in your hair,

a rosita checkerspot


butterfly lighted on one royal forefinger, stylized fer-de-lances

and suns embroidered

on the tight dress that covers your svelte hips.


Donald Platt’s seventh book of poetry, One Illuminated Letter of Being, was published by Red Mountain Press in 2020. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Nation, Poetry, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Southwest Review, Tin House, Southern Review, and Paris Review as well as in The Best American Poetry 2000, 2006, and 2015.

Originally appeared in NOR 17

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