Elizabeth Lara’s poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including The Mom Egg Review; Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse; Ex Tempore; The Wide Shore: A Journal of Global Women’s Poetry; La Presa; Multilingual Anthology: The Americas Poetry Festival (2016 and 2017); Antología Poética: VI Semana Internacional de la Poesía (Santo Domingo, 2019); and Antología Poética, vol.1, FILNYC (2020). She co-edited Happiness: The Delight-Tree – An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry (United Nations SRC Society of Writers, 2017). In 2019 she curated the MER VOX folio Soy Mujer: Latinx Poets of the Diaspora, and published her bilingual chapbook, Fire in the Mind / Fuego en la Mente.
The Fear Came Later
I was already in my seventh decade when we climbed an eight-foot fence to enter a protected section of El Yunque National Forest, it was before Jose and Maria passed over Puerto Rico failing to spare anyone, stripping the mountainsides down to their souls. Our guide was local, hotel-recommended. I wore
my bathing suit, hiking pants with secret zipper pocket, insect-repellent mountain shirt, sneakers. In our pictures I am hatless. He led us to the trail head, his compact frame slipping easily past the No Trespassing sign and over the chained gate. As I sought toe-holds in the wire fence,
I wondered how he had overlooked my age and bulk. Under the canopy on the way in, we didn’t feel the blazing sun, didn’t notice how the old mine road underfoot was covered in moss and the sheddings of trees, outer edge marked by the ruins of the aqueduct, most places wide enough for only one person to pass. Promised a short rainforest tour, we stopped first
at a narrow run where we could have jumped in for a swim. Droplets popped into the air as water hit the boulders, then settled in a large pool. From a gap farther in and higher up we saw the curve of the coast east towards Playa Escondida, to our right a drop of one thousand feet and to our left
the mountain rising one thousand feet, and on until we reached the empty bones of a building, a ghost wrapped in lianas, roof punched through by tabonuco trees and giant ferns, where we halted and stared. Our guide nudged us farther and farther into the forest, to a clearing, another river, another chance to swim.
Five miles in it began to rain, drops like bullets penetrating the thick growth above us. No time to think about being afraid – what I thought as the rain came down was that five miles in meant five miles out, our path over the rocks and the curve of the pipe, the fallen leaves slippery beneath our feet, the valley 1,000 feet below.