The sun hauled its cart across the sky— not a god, a god’s weary ox. Summer had begun to hurt, and the forbidden river was too much for us, so we went to it. The great stone stairway seemed to call with its lost grandeur for our hands and feet, echo of the commerce it sustained when it sustained the place. We had no history for it— the stones each three feet deep and six feet wide, each perhaps a ton and like a tomb. We started down them—scrambling with our hands, sitting to jump where one had crumbled clean away, our palms and bottoms chalk-white when three-hundred slabs later we reached the slow water. Our faces glistened like coins. A man approached in a wooden boat, as if he had expected us; a small man, with a face like dried fruit. He offered us a ride. At the prow, a basket of slim silver fish, still breathing; a sac of mangoes hard as yellow stones. The man pulled the boat, low with our weight, downriver with one warped oar. One of us laughed at the wretched cows that called and grazed on the far, flat bank, their hides hanging from their spines like rags. A boy, the cowherd, slept against a tree. Then we were quiet. Green became green. Nothing flickered. The light found all things equally until we slowed under a grotto of leaves. Home was legend then. We were this man’s children, almost grown, fanning flies off the day’s business, hungry for tostones, for slow-cooked frijoles, dreaming of— A bright green and turquoise bird cried across the water, blurring its wings. As if it were a sign, the old man stirred the boat around, and then he sang. The voice stirred like the wings of birds, flocked with startling color from his throat— it rose and deepened, now high, now clear, a woman’s voice, a boy’s. I couldn’t get all the words: arboles...ojos... corazón...lejos. He closed his eyes. He sang into the sun. The music scaled the cliff, then fell again like leaves onto the water, or like tears. He held a cooling final note, then stopped and dropped us at the riverbank. We paid him for a photo, slung our arms around his shoulders. We paid him for the ride. He thanked us, nodding, drew away toward home, his pockets full of coins. There were the stairs in front of us, like years.