(Concrete) Jungle

When I sat down to write about Pañacocha, it was hard to decide where to start, so I wrote a sestina poem -- since the sestina has a pretty strict pattern it gave me some direction (see below for my end words: each letter corresponds to an end word for each of 7 stanzas and they must be repeated in that order).

1. ABCDEF 2. FAEBDC 3. CFDABE 4. ECBFAD 5. DEACFB 6. BDFECA 7. (envoi) ECA or ACE + BDF within three lines

A: jungle

B: millennial

C: company D: fresh E: rise F: oil

(Concrete) Jungle

The canoe taps the riverbank, chipping small chunks of mud into the water. Jungle

birds perched amongst damp green flora hasten their chirps, beckoning towards me, an American millennial

entering Pañacocha, Ecuador, in the company

of an American, a Quiteña, and three Kichwa teammates. A fresh

resolve to share, learn, accomplish mixes with the uncertainty of our work as rising

thoughts—predictions?—settle like water and oil

layering in my mind. Our new neighbor/host/“key informant”—friend?—laments the lack of oil

to power his motor through the river-way of this jungle,

grabbing the now empty six-liter water jug as he rises

from his seat next to the tired grey motor that powered us from the millennial

city to the finca. Six pairs of black rubber boots clamor up the path, a fresh

mud coating splatter painting their smooth surfaces. In the company

of ten staring children we pause at the wooden steps to an open, two-story wooden house. Company-

gifted electricity lines slouch among green tree towers: gifts valued at the price of oil

and government intervention, with plenty of change. I kick my boots off my feet; fresh

sweat accumulating under my armpits threatens to slide down my arm outstretched to saludar; jungle

chickens pull my darting eyes; swarms of coloradillas savor my skin, decorating my exposed ankles with millennial

pink targets, leaving behind each blood red bull’s-eye for their larvae to continue to feast. We rise

at 5:40am—sharp, somehow, without a watch—peeling back mosquito netting to glimpse the rising

sun outlining a petroleum company

boat speeding through the Río Napo, not even slowing to glance at the millennial

city that stands as a relic of its cargo: oil,

that turned sacha-selva-jungle to concrete jungle—

a blocked-out, sidewalk-ed, street-lamp-lit, Pleasantville amidst yucca fields and plantain forests, and added freshly

planted rows of café and cacao to chakra lands: development compensation juxtaposing new infrastructure and fresh

produce, all in the name of economic rise,

gains for the State and comunas of the Amazon jungle…

And here, in this casa de madera with a techo de paja, my company

is a lonely rucu mama, a fiercely caring mama—and chickens por todos lados, their eggs sizzling in a río of oil

in the frying pan perched on a proudly purchased gas stove, an item more útil than the entire millennial

house that this abuelita was awarded through negotiations indecipherable to her—to most, save four—as this millennial

city bulldozed land that tigers once patrolled, trading a harmonious violence among natural species for unequal freshly-

minted-cash compensations and an expertly navigated charade of elaborate city plans. Water, trago, oil:

three liquids that will never fully combine, yet here and now are intrinsically linked. I rise

from the flipped wooden canoe bench, dodge three dangling spoons, and pass the refrigerator the company

donated to each homeowner—the refrigerator that is abuelita’s roommate and dresser, because this is the jungle

and although, yes, there is oil, no hay luz. This is the jungle, that proves its strength as fresh grasses rise,

bursting through the sidewalks in the millennial city. This is the jungle that keeps me company

with its chicha and sweet oritos and people open to a gringa barely qualified to machetear. This is the (concrete) jungle.

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