What we want to remember about this river

by Janette Schafer


Remember the Orinoco is a river in Venezuela, 
her headwaters begin at the Parima Mountains. 

Remember it will take your raft 14 days to reach 
the Atlantic if you are not first dashed on rapids, 
thrown over the precipice of a waterfall. 

Remember her serpentine curves carve a swath 
through the rainforest.  

Remember in Maracay it takes citizens 
14 hours to snake through breadlines
for a bag of masa flour and one roll of toilet paper. 

Remember that the Orinoco is full of piranha 
which will feast on your thick ankles and fleshy calves. 

Remember the Orinoco Crocodile, nearly extinct, 
an exorbitant cost for ever-changing scales 
of iridescent yellow, brown, and gray. The money 
for her skin will feed you for a month.

Remember a pregnant woman gunned down 
by a rogue soldier in Caracas for the promise of 
succulent pork, how she was split like a fatted calf, 
placenta and viscera staining the crumbling concrete. 

Remember the Orinoco as she spills her flooded banks, 
pregnant with minerals, into a rich fertile delta—
banks which will never flow into your pocket.

Remember how oil once held so much promise 
before heavy jeweled chains and golden commodes. 

Remember Angels of Death, forbidden sweetness 
in their open-mouthed kiss.  They pull souls from 
between lips into the surrounding haze of equatorial heat, 
into the closing arms of Peru and Argentina, 

or further still into heaven. 

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