“Our Visit to the Dole Banana Plantation on the Day Obama Won the Nobel Peace Prize”
In Denver, the leaves are all dying, or dead now.
I miss the way we know it is time to bury ourselves for the winter,
to sleep until the snow leaves.
Here, in Sarapiqui, everything is green
so the threat of death is subtle,
you have to find it yourself, throw off the thick sheet of humid air
and breathe it in, the slick, rotting stench of
death in a warmer climate.
We watch rows of bananas pass by
through the bus window-
here we will witness colonialism,
the skeleton of slavery
raw and bitter to the senses,
a shock to our first world misconceptions-
we have known about these evils all along,
but when we see them,
(the worker’s faces gnarled by exhaustion)
it is a different kind of sadness,
a consuming passion we cannot read about,
I thought it was unfair
that we could escape back to the air-conditioned bus,
back to the luxury of our expensive educations,
while they are still trapped in this colonial cage,
posing like exotic animals for tourists
eager to see “real poverty”
to bring back a souvenir,
when the most memorable part of their day
will probably be the river rafting.
Most of us
won’t save the world
(like we say we will)
but it is in us now,
this violent desire to
this animal howling
in the cage of my conscience
as if compassion were an instinct
equal in power to survival.
Most of us won’t change the world
the way we think we want to
but there is no way for us to leave this place
without being changed.