Palo Santo

by Frances Fuller Victor

In the deep woods of Mexico,

Where screams the "painted paraquet,"

And mocking-birds flit to and fro,

With borrowed notes they half forget;

Where brilliant flowers and poisonous vines

Are mingled in a firm embrace,

And the same gaudy plant entwines

Some reptile of a poisonous race;

Where spreads the Itos' icy shade,

Benumbing, even in summer's heat,

The thoughtless traveler who hath laid

Himself to noonday slumbers sweet;—

Where skulks unseen the beast of prey—

The native robber glares and hides,—

And treacherous death keeps watch alway

On him who flies, or he who bides.

In these deep tropic woods there grows

A tree, whose tall and silvery bole

Above the dusky forest shows,

As shining as a saintly soul

Among the souls of sinful men;—

Lifting its milk-white flowers to heaven,

And breathing incense out, as when

The passing saints of earth are shriven.

The skulking robber drops his eyes,

And signs himself with holy cross,

If, far between him and the skies,

He sees its pearly blossoms toss.

The wanderer halts to gaze upon

The lovely vision, far or near,

And smiles and sighs to think of one

He wishes for the moment here.

The Mexic native fears not fang

Of poisonous serpent, vine, nor bee,

If he may soothe the baleful pang

With juices of this "holy tree."

How do we all, in life's wild ways,

Which oft we traverse lost and lone,

Need that which heavenward draws the gaze,

Some Palo Santo of our own!