Diago’s Dark Waters

By .

On our tour of the Rio Negro, while the boat
putters across its strong-tea waters
local guide, Diago adds colour commentary

in addition to the construction genius of a bridge
over 2 miles long with 246 supporting columns, he adds
that each month 24 people plummet to death from it

he describes first contact with Europeans,
how villagers leaped into currents to drown
terrified by the strange fevers of smallpox

at the Dessana village, after describing
the rich traditional tribal celebrations, he warns
don’t stand under Brazil nut trees

after today’s rain, a 5-pound fruit is likely
to fall 200 feet at 50 miles per hour
and kill you

he explains how villagers died fighting
gold thieves who first arrived by sail boat
then by twin-prop airplane

at the rubber museum he regales us with stories
of the rubber tappers dying of yellow fever
or malaria, eaten by jaguars

passing hissing factories, 45-year-old Diago
says the average person in Manaus dies at 55
cancer, diabetes, heart disease

no mention of Covid-19
until our cruise ship docks in Antigua
after an Italian ship is turned away

disembarking in San Juan three days later
borders are closing and I think of Diago
sharing this new way to die

his Rio Negro already black
with bones of the dead

2 thoughts on “Diago’s Dark Waters

  1. Mary Corkery

    Dear Kim,
    How deeply your work as a nurse must focus on someone like Diago, who lives with death’s presence, all the time.

    Mary Corkery

  2. Suzanne Doerge

    Thank you Kim for this vivid travel down the Rio Negro with echoes of death, seeming to be distant stories, until your landing, as it has been for all of us.


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