Michael Andrews Arts

See Announcements for details on publication of Archilochus poems in Arion Magazine.

The Amazon

The Amazon - Current Project

Currnt Project


In 1992 I went to the Peruvian Andes and down to the Amazon. It was nearly 3000 meters high and still jungle. First Tarapoto, then we drove the worst road in the entire world to Shapaha, a town that was then split up between the coca lords, the military and the local vigilantes. The coca boys had Galils, the military had M-16s and the vigilantes had shotguns. If you did not have at least a shotgun you were not allowed to call yourself a man.
Then onto the Mayo River, an insignificant tributary of the Amazon, barely a mile wide and churning brown mud. We were in a launcha - a, small, motorized, cigar shaped boat used for local river travel. In Quechua Mayo means river so the translation is the River River. We went to some small jungle clearing with a meandering path and walked past several of the poorest of poor tambus. No one wore shoes. We went to vist the ayahuascero Don Aquilino, his wife, and their brood at a slightly upscale tambu. I bathed in a nearby stream. And later, we rice and molé.
Back in Tarapoto I had many ayahuasca sessions with Don Solon an old ayahuascero noted for his use of "Lightening" ayahuasca. Botanist cannotdistinguish the plants, but the ayahuasceros can. The experience was not as intense as the ayahuasca brewed with datura, but the visions were more intense. We spent time in the selva (jungle) purging our systems, out souls and our stomachs with some concoction that Solon brewed. It made your kness knock and your skin shiver even though the no-see-ums got through the cheap netting and ate me alive.
But my soul was pure.



The Ends Of The Earth
The Peruvian Amazon

   Some people claim
   there's a woman to blame
   but I know--
   it's my own damn fault
, Jimmy Buffett

Three hours of bad road-
it's as far as I can run,
hard driven and hard times
and the jungle just sucks me in
and doesn't even notice my scream.
We bounce out of Tarapoto down 15 klicks
of highway, four lanes of bad dirt
rippled ruts and hot white clouds
floating in the erupting blister of the sky.
So much for the good part.
We hit the Mayo river, big and brown
boiling mud and foam
running from the kerosene streams
and coca plantations in the upper Huallaga Valley
until it dumps into the Huallaga river
cream and coffee, bigger, browner and running
for the Amazon, the sea, the clouds.
I am dehydrated and weak as a freeze-dried potato,
dropping weight like a pig on laxatives,
fasting for the ayahuasca,
boiled oats and plantains in the jungle
we roll into Shapaha, the last town
last chance, last gas
and the place is a forest of shotguns,
drug runners and coca pickers.
The Toyota collectivo
jars and grinds second gear through the jungle,
over streams, into an exploding cloud of butterflies,
a flurry of color splashed against the jungle,
potholes deeper than a rich man's bathtub
twisted mountains reaching for the sky,
steam and heat, mud and dust.

I watch the jungle slide by,
the Huallaga shooting its rapids
and I think about a woman
closed into herself like a half mad clam
and me, looking for Jacob's ladder
in the last place on earth,
bouncing over the worst road on the continent
in a Toyota pickup, dirt and mud
and boulders the size of shopping carts,
mountains and rivers, ruts and rocks,
on some road to Chazuta in the upper Huallaga Valley
somewhere in the Peruvian Amazon

and I know exactly where I am lost.

I ain't never going to leave.
I ain't never going home.
I give the finger to insane men
with M-16s on full-auto, safety off,
and I know that the jungle wants
to compost me into an ant hill-
that ayahuasca dehabituates
dreams die, time flies, love suffocates
and life kills.

So who gives a shit if a child
starves to death in Calcutta.
This place is as good as any.
Give me a good knife and half a chance.
Send this letter home.
So what if they hate Americans
and they ask questions later.
It ain't what I'm alive for.
Can't think of a single reason
to see tomorrow's sunset.

Tell me I'm wrong.