“It is the duty of every poet to speak fearlessly and clearly.”
– Sam Hamill

If you’ve been moved by this unjust war to write a poem, please consider submitting by email to thorleyp1@yahoo.com. or mail to SPC. Work on themes of war, the war economy, oppression and political injustice, and/or which celebrates more positive hopes and visions, will be considered.

Ode to the Economic Hit Men
by Jackie Hayes


Mid-western upbringing,
private high school
and all the exclusion money can buy lands a government job.
Green almond eyes draw money men into the mix of things.
In them they see the Amazon twisting and turning,
swinging its voluptuous hips to the tune of money.
They plan to play a jungle beat on their leather wallets.
They get drunk off martinis in a Manhattan bar,
thinking of oil pipeline workers kicking soccer balls across a barren field:
They'll bring everyone into the future on a wave of oil.

A plane ride to Ecuador and reality tears a significant hole in capitalism's tapestry.
The lines this theory drew in steel and concrete don't quite compute.
Hand-woven intricacies pieced together by generation upon generation of
Quechua-speaking indigenous Ecuadorians seem to paint a more accurate portrait of the landscape. The Incans were right about the location of the equator--
and the Spaniards were wrong.

Indigenous men and women surround Quito like a halo,
stopping traffic when the IMF fails to pay off.
It's set up so Ecuadorians are in tangible debt
whilst the IMF leaves behind the abstract idea of broken promises.
That's the trick the money men get right every time,
boy they know how to manipulate a humble people,
who will always give them the benefit of the doubt.

And they have a river,
and they have a river,
and they have a river in Guayaquil that is so polluted you can't see its current.
Solid sludge stagnates on top while a slow, sad stream fights beneath,
fights to bring water to the river dwellers
washing their clothes and their faces in this water.
Cooking their food and drinking this water, this water.
'El agua es nuestra carajo!'

The town was built at first with no treatment center,
sewage dumping right into the river.
Then NesCafe moved into this industrious city,
this business-friendly city with few environmental restrictions.
They pinned their pretty billboards around town, happy, white-faced, green-eyed children posed like snake charmers to sedate a desperate city.
We'll create some jobs and some products they boasted.
They holed up in a corner surrounded by concrete walls,
like a distant castle to keep out all the unemployed.
A few men wait by the gate every morning
clutching onto a hope that has become more dangerous than helpful.

A gate opens up the girls' orphanage, as well.
The orphanage is run by nuns and the church,
since there is no public money to fund these projects.
The girls make cameras out of scraps of paper,
each taking a turn snapping faux photos of dancing girls and passerbys.
They bring us tin cups of water from the bathroom sink,
that we've been cautioned not to drink.
The clean water for washing is under the ground,
a door opens into the cavern of water that looks like a mirage in this concrete desert.
They cannot be greedy,
there is only so much water
delivered once a month and that's it, bottom line, period.

Greed is not for little orphaned Ecuadorian girls,
it's for rich, white men in Subarus trekking from Quito, down to Shell, a town named after an oil company.
Armed with soccer balls and whistles
they plan to strike a deal with the locals who've had no outside contact with
an oil-addicted world.
They plan to sell the land and rights for a handful of whistles.
If things get rough they'll offer the soccer balls,
then the goals,
then they'll arm the government with US guns.

Late at night when the money men are holed up in a Sheraton hotel high above Guayaquil lulling themselves to sleep by counting dollar bills,
Israel climbs to the roof of the boy's home.
At 11 years old he finds an isolated corner to huff some shoe polish and drift into a fuzzy haze of lights and sounds.
He tries to picture his mother in Quito
selling dolls and tapestries to American and European tourists,
shoots his focused thoughts off the roof like a flare in hopes that his mother will respond with a map in the stars.
'Here's where I am' she'll say.
'Here's where I am.'

When the polish wears off there's a hungry hole in his stomach
mirroring the pitch black sky,
no response,
no stars,
no hope,
no map.
He makes his way to the edge of the roof
To stare at the contrast of his tiny toes to the overwhelming city streets.

I get a muffled, frantic phone call at 1 am,
Andreas found Israel on the roof poised to jump.
He's without a mother, money, a job or food.
He wondered what was left.
The money men sink deeper into a delusional sleep in their Sheraton beds,
dreaming of being white saviors, the Quexatlquotl of the 21st century.
Their white horses only drag darkness,
big black empty blankets that look like death streamers dancing to the beat of Amazon river coughs,
singing greed's song and laying hope to rest.

Jackie works with the Peace Council and has been Project Coordinator for NYPIRG at SUNY New Paltz. She spent a semester in Ecuador and traveled through Bolivia and Peru.