From the pages of my father’s book sifts
the natron-scented sand he shook from his shoes
onto the carpet of the Luxor hotel room.
Later chapters are stained with urine
and have small wormholes.
Random signatures are missing.
Between pages 78 and 79,
where I pressed his shriveled husk,
his eyes, still open, stare wildly,
a ring of white around the desperate blue.

When I ruffle through the leaves, I hear
the regular mutter of the first commercial propeller plane
to cross the Pacific.
A receipt flutters downward; the sales slip for the camera
confiscated by Japanese customs: “Military! Spy! Contraband!”

There is an earlier photo of him standing
next to a Jivaro tribesman with whom
he traded his rifle for a shrunken head.
The head is still in its box, wrapped in tissue paper;
the flocked cheeks have been eaten away, leaving nothing
where tiny teeth should gleam, sharp as needles.
Its eyes, thankfully, are closed.

©2000 F.J. Bergmann

"Travelogue" appeared in stirring September 2004

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