The Road into Cuyabeno
Texas oilmen named this laceration
in the Ecuadorian Amazon "Sour Lake,"
Lago Agrio, and since it’s an oil town
of 20,000, we know its prostitutes, bars
and garbage-strewn parks fill with
indigent colonists who follow
our oil companies to the jungle.
I think not of Tu Fu or Confucius, but
Lonely Planet, which says "an oil town
is an oil town." We take their word,
walk straight from tarmac to terminal to a
bus that will drop us 4 hours from here.
Because we are norteamericanos, our hopes
are high before we watch rain spit from
an immense sky into half-built, wood-plank
shacks on stilts, walls painted with
political slogans and half-legible names
of local consejeros, green hills dotted
by handfuls of trees, and four parallel
pipelines following our bus like
one of the country’s mangy strays,
flowing straight to graffiti on Quito
walls topped with glass shards:
NO FMI FUERA OPEC NO COMPRE TEXACO.
Holding hands, we peered far
ahead to Cuyabeno Preserve.
Loaded into canoes for the 2 hour
ride to our huts, we forgot the
tanker trucks, derricks, and squat
bunkers for oil workers along the
road that reminded me of Dachau.
Fernando, our guide, laughs a lot.
We laugh, too, because we see
squirrel monkeys, sloths, caimans,
pink dolphins, and kingfishers.
We sleep like los indígenas in
thatched huts, dumb with fortune.
From The Coriolis Effect by Michael Dowdy. Copyright © 2007 by Michael Dowdy. Reprinted with permission of Bright Hill Press.