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
anyway.

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