The zoo did not prepare me.
Captive crocodiles are dry.
You see the whole reptile:
bulk, scales, teeth. You know
they can kill you, but the cage
keeps you calm.
As we motor the sailboat
to dock at Puerto Armeulles
through a narrow channel
between many tiny islands,
we miss the timing of the tide;
mud grabs and holds the keel.
We are stuck waiting
as the boat tilts closer and closer
toward murky shallows.
Cesar mentions cocodrilo
when he pisses over the side.
The four of us sit on the high hull,
six hundred pounds against gravity,
hoping to keep the bare mast in air.
I see swerving ripples. There?
No, here! Those bubbles
are really eyes. A bit of back,
a pattern of solid brown sliding
through brown water. Seeing only pieces
gives the illusion the crocodiles
are smaller, playing a harmless game
of hide and seek. Tense, we stop speaking
until the tide comes, slowly nudging
the sloop until it levels up to float.
Cesar tosses a chicken carcass. At once,
giant Mesozoic jaws fly up and snap.
I imagine: my arm, my leg.
First published in PANK