Seeing Myself as a Mayan Mother

Thousands of years ago,
Mayans built superhighways
connecting impressive cities
later abandoned, now buried
beneath miles of jungle.

Like the dinosaur demise,
scientists can only speculate
what happened to the Mayans.

They suspect it was drought,
climate change amplified
by human behavior.

The Mayans left behind
the remnants of reservoirs,
pyramids, even ball courts.

We know they had great talent,
vast knowledge and numbers.

But we don’t know if they saw
the link between slashing trees
and impending doom.

Were they like us? Unwilling to give up
profits or pleasures. Politically divided.

I imagine a Mayan mother
in those final years, serving
her family dinner, urging them
to eat and enjoy before
anything changes.

And I see myself.

About the Poem

Laser-scanning technology has allowed archeologists to discover another Mayan city buried in a jungle in Mexico. In Guatemala, using the same laser technology, scientists found an organized network of ancient cities. Reading about these discoveries led me to more research contemplating the ecological reasons for the demise of Mayan civilization.

About the Author

Jacqueline Jules is the author of Manna in the Morning (Kelsay Books, 2021) and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her newest collection, Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember, will be released by Bushel & Peck in August 2023. Visit

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