Because my brother hummed & sang the most beautiful music we nicknamed him Hummingbird. Since hummingbirds are tiny, love red, love sleeping and dancing, he liked this name. As worker bees rose when we rose when the sun rose, we shared the same morning scent of flowers & scars upon our bodies. Most mornings meant climbing & chopping & picking & stacking until the bitter breath of evening cooled our calloused hands. As we consumed our corn paste & bananas our woodlice & flies, as we argued what was the importance of the seeds within the cocoa fruit, Hummingbird hummed & sang, staring towards the blue sky. Even at night as the trees whispered stories & the earth clenched the necks of eighteen frightened boys, we hearkened to the songs of our mothers from the sweet lips of Hummingbird, incarcerated from the breeze & stars. Because, one afternoon my brother chose to sleep beneath the leaves of the cocoa tree, he was beaten to death with some branches & the chain of the bicycle that was promised as his wage. Now that his silence is a shadow lingering behind fear between lips between the chomp of our machetes & the bean pods, the trees hum, the leaves hum, the bees hum, the earth hums all through the day, long into the night.
A Taste of Slavery [UCSD]
Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem [Fortune]
Stephen Byrne is an Irish chef and writer currently living in Chicago. He has been published worldwide in places such as Warscapes, Indian Review, Tuck Magazine, RædLeafPoetry-India, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology and many others. His first collection ‘Somewhere but not Here’ won the RL Poetry Award, 2016 International category. He is the food writer for ‘This is Galway’ website.