dust, red-brown, kicked up by the pickup truck
in a cloud ‘round my head, ‘cause I’m stuck
in the truck bed with Judy and Alison balancing our bouncing butts
as the truck heads to Goyena and the heat burns
and the street turns from concrete to dirt to dust
which at first I try to brush off, but it’s not even worth the fuss
‘cause the swirling dust so thoroughly encrusts us from our feet to our eyes,
by the time we arrive at Goyena, we’re each completely disguised.
I thought Alison’s hair was black, but I gotta check my eyesight,
‘cause when we walk in the classroom, she’s got red-blond highlights,
and I’m like, “Woah, my thin hair is kinda filled in nice, too.”
That’s that Goyena dust playin mind-tricks on you.
Judy used to be bright white, but after truckin it home one night
in our dust-kick-up pickup, I look at her shocked. I’m like “Damn,
ain’t even got any sun and you look like Goldilocks with a tan!”
We got dust on our bare skin, dust on our clothes,
and I know that can’t be dust ticklin the hairs in my nose,
but it is, ‘cause when I blow it, even the tissue is brown.
Speakin of brown tissue, is there a outhouse around?
Yup, but there’s dust in the outhouse, dust in your underwear.
Trust. Go take a shower ‘cause you even got dust under there.
‘Cause Goyena is
dust kicked up by kids playing soccer
in the dirt that five minutes ago was our theatre class.
You know a soccer game is grassroots when there ain’t even no grass,
and the ball ain’t a soccer ball, and when anyone makes a pass,
the ball deflates and caves in half,
but the kids all just play and laugh,
‘cause when you only have half a school,
you make do with what you have.
which is why now half the sixth-grade boys
work the sugarcane plantation in the morning,
come to school in the afternoon,
and can’t afford to think what might happen soon
because Goyena, now, is dust
of chemicals on cane
plantation hemorrhaging workers turned lame,
imperceptible pesticide dust that rusts
a sixteen-year-old student from the inside,
kidney ailing, threatening to join the elders
whose kidneys already failed, and died.
Goyena is the dust of cane
company sugar coating peoples’ pain
with gifts of built bridges and backpacks
aimed at helping widows swallow the bitter pill of illness
that killed their husbands and tilled them into the same dust
which must be why much of this land is still so fertile:
the dust of workers buried in the same dirt they used to sow
filters into the earth whispering “Grow, grow”
into her thirsty ear until she’s bursting with ears of corn,
row after row of mango and squash newborn
to cooperative farms giving birth to a lone alternative,
returning the land to farmers who yearn to live but can’t
otherwise escape the long arms of the sugarcane plant.
And like coop farms turn dead dust to live plants,
when despair knocks at bare doors, survival answers,
‘cause Goyena’s dust is alive with Luís, drama teacher,
arriving with students on foot, bike, the back of a horse,
shaping third graders into a drama attack force,
alive like the student on scholarship to college in León
teaching kids after school in some family’s home
turned impromptu schoolhouse, alive like all of us,
falling like little drops of water in dust,
feeling too small to matter, hoping it’s not all in vain,
that one drop of conviction can gather a sky full of rain
to drench the whole earth, quench the whole thirst of man,
but what if in thirty years, Goyena just churns out more dust,
and doesn’t learn to turn humans into capital like us,
in the U.S., have learned to turn the search for sustenance into greed,
and learned that Want sells more sugarcoated candies than Need?
And what if that’s why Goyena’s dust follows us back –
gets stuck in the cracks of our seeming abundance,
revealing the healing things they have that we lack:
a will to action and work, even when there’s not much;
a revolution; family; community; touch.
Now I’m back and Goyena is still dust filling the cracks and creases
of my used-to-be-white-now-black sneakers,
spilling out the recesses of my backpack and brain,
connecting the dots between my pleasure and the world’s pain,
which is now both in me and out of my control.
I went to Goyena and found a foreign country: my soul.
And as I sift through the fine dust Goyena left in each fold
of my mind, I try to decipher which future will define us:
If what link us now are jets and cash,
multinational companies that get a free pass
over borders and people and water and bread,
how can we make the links human instead?
What if what we must do is cleave ourselves in two:
into U.S. us, and Nicaragua us,
leaving parts of our soul in both places,
so in bringing justice and good work
to Goyena, you are not just making one country whole, but two,
and not just making other people whole, but you?