Poem: No Shoes in the Sun

No Shoes in the Sun

Most of it you do not remember,
a fantasy land where much of it was plastic
and artificial or at least you could not tell
what was and what was not.

It was the trips off the ship that resonated.
Shuffled onto busses
that took you through poverty
that made you want to stop and hug
the ragged children in their faded bright shirts
and give them your shoes.

And then jungle. Not the pristine perfection
of movie jungles. These were raw and overwhelming,
swallowing the landscape.
Here and there small stone temples poked through,
a quick flash.

When the bus stopped for souveniers and Coke,
sold out of a shanty made of scrap metal
and half a dozen colors of paint and rust,
you walked into the jungle,
into one of the pagan temples almost out of sight
and were transported into a different world,
real as the books you read as a child.
You did not want to leave.

You did of course. There’s a schedule on these things.
Vast temple squares to see, postcard stuff.
and then the ride back in the air conditioned bus,
past the same homes and schools. The same children
who waved.

Then on to the boat. An hour in the false, yet glorious
Guilded age lounge. The dressing for dinner
in a vast room full of others dressed for dinner.

All the pictures of the day turned out sharp and crisp
except the ones of the children,
taken from a moving bus. Their faces and feet a blur,
except in your mind, where you are playing with them,
Sticks and balls and no shoes in the sun.

About this poem

A remembrance of a single day on a cruise many many years ago. It affected me so much that for over a decade, until it closed, I gave money each year to help out the barefoot school we passed that day.



  1. You are a good man, Tom Atkins! What a different world it would be if all who saw the same thing would do something about it!

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