Brown, an English poet and university instructor who specializes in Caribbean and African studies, wrote this poem as a commentary on the Caribbean islands but particularly on Puerto Rico.
From above, with the islands spread out below him, Puerto Rico seems to have won the "pot." He calls it the wealthy "Dallas of the West Indies" because it is owned by the United States.
Yet as the plane lands in the San Juan airport, the speaker's view begins to shift. When the pilot says that only people for whom Puerto Rico is the final destination can disembark, the speaker begins to think that Puerto Rico's bounty is meant only for the rich. He believes that the pilot's words about not leaving the plane are meant to keep out Black interlopers who might sneak onto the island (one might question, however, how many "desperate blacks" are on a plane):
Subtle Uncle Sam, afraid too many desperate blacks
might re-enslave this Island of the free,
might jump the barbed
electric fence around ‘America’s
back yard’ and claim that vaunted sanctuary... ‘Give me your poor...’
As the plane rises above San Juan, and the speaker can see shanties juxtaposed with condos and Cadillacs, his view that Puerto Rico is a jackpot for the rich alone is confirmed. He ends by stating that Puerto Rico is "sharp and jagged and dangerous" and meant for someone else.
The speaker brings his knowledge of the history and politics of the Caribbean to bear on what he sees with his own eyes. He knows that Puerto Rico is owned by a wealthy country and that this gives it a seeming edge over the other countries nearby. But his interpretation of what he sees offers him a different, darker perspective of who benefits from this island.