The Death of a Skywalker

coconut plucker

Aerial ropeways connecting the coconut palms
criss-cross the vast plantation.
High above the ground
where the long green leaves fan out
clusters of coconuts
ooze juice into bamboo canisters.

Each dawn the toddy tapper sets out
whipcord-sinew brown man
shimmies up the trunk of a tree
in a style that would shame a monkey
and goes skywalking from tree to tree.

Calloused bare feet clamping the tree trunk,
gulping a mug of toddy – a tonic,
his wife’s warning briefly echoing:
Be very careful today;
I heard the ulama bird – a bad omen.

Clinging to branches way up high,
surefooted,
harvesting the potent sap
to make arrack to
satiate his countrymen’s craving,
and make the mudalali rich
he goes skywalking from tree to tree.

Fifty trees to go
before the morn is gone,
for every tree a rupee
needing 50 to keep the wolf at bay
he goes skywalking from tree to tree.

His curved knife making expert incisions
on another cluster of coconuts,
with practiced ease,
priming nuts for tomorrow’s spree
he goes skywalking from tree to tree.

Moving fast
traipsing the ropewalk
tripping the light fandango
he goes skywalking from tree to tree.

Vessel near full
Almost done
Sun a scorcher
Time to descend.

Then sudden death comes crawling
and the scorpion stings him:
in agony his feet betray him,
losing his footing,
losing his grip,
Skywalker comes crashing down
down
down
Down 50 steep feet.

The wind begins howling
like the ulama bird screeching
alcoholic harvest scattering
evaporating in the blazing sun
as the earth comes racing up to meet him.

Skywalker is down
he’s down on the ground,
a mangled pile of flesh and bone,
a moment ago had been
skywalking from tree to tree.

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~ by Outrigger Owl on February 5, 2007.

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