Suriname 1981

In a barbershop in Paramaribo,
a fat man in a cracked leather chair
sweats in the heat, waits to die,
for the wrong word.

In Suriname these languages are spoken:
Arawak, Aukan, Carib, Saramaccan,
Trio, Wayana. Dutch, English, Javanese,
Portugese. Sarnami, Sranan.

Every Sunday on the Oranjeplein, the men gather
with their birds, twa-twas and picolets, set up the cages
and the chalkboards, place bets, wait for the birds
to sing, keep count, win and lose.

Far from the city, in jungle, I too
think only of birds, do not hear the gunfire
of revolution or the faraway words
my wife speaks, in bed with another man.

Around my camp stand inginoto trees, whose flowers
must have the attention of certain bees, which in turn
attract mates only with the perfume of certain orchids.
Are these entanglements beautiful or terrible?

As I set out one day, an inginoto nut
large as two clenched fists falls from 100 feet above.
If I had been struck, there would have been no last words.
It drops at my feet. I go on living.

Click here to listen to Pepper Trail reading "Suriname 1981"

Pepper Trail's work has appeared in Spillway, Atlanta Review, Borderlands, and Bellevue Literary Review, among other journals, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, and works as a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Home      Register     About Us/Staff     Submit     Links     Contributors     Advertising     Archives     Blog     Donation     Contact Us