by Aaron Jafferis

I live in a fine New Haven neighborhood, and my environment is just
‘cause whoever designed my neighborhood knew a liquor store must
be never more than three blocks away from me.
And I know the store on my end of the street is high-end
‘cause they don’t hide them bottles behind some wide counter or bulletproof glass
where I have to eye them and sigh, then, –
I can actually touch the bottles before I buy them,
like now I’m touching my high-end Flor de Caña rum inside the store,
thinking “What if you take this touchy-feely thing one step more,
and could actually touch the people who make the rum
before it made its way in my package store’s door?”
I’m not talking about touching Captain Morgan, I’m not into that kinda thing,
I’m talking about knowing where my rum comes from, and who,
and whether it was made by someone like … you.

So I brush the dust off the bottom of the bottle until I can see
the label says “Made in Nicaragua.” And that’s when it hits me:
This rum was maybe made in New Haven’s sister city.
I bet you didn’t know New Haven had a sister. She does. And she is hot!
So hot, her main crop is dust,
and I was so hot, when I visited,
my main crop was must.
Trust. I took a bus to this rural Goyena town,
and my white ass turned moreno-brown.
I went down on a education delegation,
—what? You’re surprised I’m a teacher?
Think: if I didn’t drink each weekend, I’d be a homicidal creature
during the week and your misbehavin’ kid wouldn’t live to see the seventh grade!

Which is kinda like how it is in Goyena, ‘cause there the sixth grade
is the highest one that exists, A,
and B, a lot of sixth-grade boys
in our pretty, hot, sister city have got
to work the sugarcane plantation in the morning
before they come to school in the afternoon,
and can’t afford to think what might happen soon,
C, like taking the seventh grade in heaven

‘cause Goyena’s main crop is dust
but it’s not just the fine earthy kind that lines my bottle of rum,
but this imperceptible herbicide dust that rusts
ailing workers from the inside
‘til their kidneys fail, and they die
working the same World-Bank-funded cane plantation off of which
this one family who owns half that nation gets awful rich
making the sugar that’s making the rum that’s making me come
over and over again to this liquor bottle in my hand.

And so what I am drunk off a sip of the same fine liquor
which makes some lame cane worker sicker?
You’re all drunk off your need
to buy cheaper and quicker junk you don’t need
long as you don’t see the people your money makes bleed.
Don’t judge me, my environment is just
‘cause the people who eat my herbicidal dust
are strangers to me, no danger to me.
Don’t complain to me ‘bout how drunk I am –
‘cause I am your Uncle, Sam –
I may be dangerous and angry, but I ain’t drunk, man.
I need my rum cheap, my grapes cheap, my thumb drives cheap,
so the people who make what I buy – I need their lives cheap,
so if your Nicaraguan sister dies, long as I eat,
it ain’t that deep.
I am your Uncle Sam,
so I know what I’m doing,
drunk or sober,
I make dough by screwing
your Mother, Nature
over and over and over.

  • “Critic’s Choice. With the raw spirit of the hard-hitting ‘Kingdom’... rap, Latin sounds and razor-edged rock tap into pure blasts of emotion, like a needle dropped straight on the brain. A bold step forward for the Globe.” – San Diego Union-Tribune
  • About Aaron

    Aaron Jafferis is a hip hop poet and playwright. Read his bio, his CV, or contact him.