Dear Empire [these are your bondsmen]
These are your bondsmen. We see them come from high mountains in caravans of shawls and ragged hats. They wear their bedrolls on their backs and descend like strange dromedaries as they crisscross down the trails made by the goats.
The bright red coffee cherries, when plucked, are hardened knuckles. The baskets slung low from shoulder to waist, shake as the pickers step from bramble to bramble. To hear it, one would think of rain—the beans like the pitch of a storm.
It would amuse you to watch them move, the pickers. Like watching animals climb bramble, high above the jungle canopies—one hand crosses another, snaps back the terrible stems.
Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, a winner of the 2000 Crab Orchard Award Series for Poetry, Furious Lullaby, and Requiem for the Orchard, winner of the 2010 U. of Akron Prize for Poetry. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry and a founding member of Kundiman.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation, cultivation, and promotion of Asian American poetry. He is the recipient of grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Artists' Trust, and he teaches creative writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.