Jinotega Greys

by Matt Brereton

The colour of bland expected desperation in their eyes:
The colour of breeze block barrios
And corrugated iron roofs reflected,
And many do not have even that,
Chicken-like, scratching at the dirt,
For some small thing, anything.

The children at least play happily
In the cold mud everywhere,
Without shoes,
For now they do not know they are the poor,
Or what it means.

Mum and Dad know,
And feel lucky breaking backs
Heaving 40 kilo sacks of cement,
And clods of rich dark heavy earth
With blistered, raw hands;
At least the roof, or the patchwork plank-iron-plastic walls
Won't leak and mush the floor this year,
When the wet season comes.

Winter never comes cheap to the poor,
And these are the highlands,
Where the cold bites hard
Young and old toes alike.

The barrio roads, slushy muddy lanes,
By the sides bordered: scavenged wood in bits,
Tacked with blue or yellow or fertiliser bag plastic,
As home,
With something for the roof.

Mothers´ voices carry from the verge; sing softly,
Or maybe the low moan of pallid ghosts
Cooking rice,
And whatever else comes to hand.
Maybe nothing, who knows.
In kitchen-lounge-bedroom-all-in-one shacks,
These are working mothers.

Building other walls and roofs with these people,
I feel like a cheap rich white fraud serving penance,
Earning some points to salve this soft comfortable English skin,
While people surround me with smiles and generosity
They can ill afford.

They call it Habitat Por Humanidad,
But they don't need humanity,
We do.



Wayuu Children, genocide survivors.
Guajira, Colombia, June 2004

Mayas without Land,
Champerico, Guatemala.

Waiting for adoption,
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.


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