Mystery Tour

In dreamy hot regions you may see volcanic
scenery and ghosts of near-naked men whose
mysterious disappearance you can spend
whole days imagining—the aftermath of
their bristling pomp and scintillating armor,
how their skin glistened and how they grinned
killing their captives, all of them, liking it more
than anything even sex and drink and gold.
Their gods’ discreet distance in their own
separate time made it necessary
to torture strangers and murder neighbors,
no kneeling in austere confessionals, and
afterwards feasts and fancy dancing in long halls
of human skulls and artful documentation.
Their few remaining manuscripts are limned
exquisitely on skin, their language, some
speculate, dire and full of prophecies for us,
vast libraries destroyed by the weather
they worked so hard for and never got.
But their monuments and pottery remain
to tell tales of elaborate marital
blood-letting and games designed to execute
people merely passing through and probably
not so unlike the more fortunate you here in
the safely scary dreams of your soft bath.

detail from image: Yaxchilan lintel 24 British Museum