Dear Istmina

Leer en español

You are never still. Your streets pump

with noise: chochos* rev their engines,

bars blast beats until

all hours,

marauding megaphone voices

try to sell us blenders, cell phone minutes, pirated DVDs.

Centro Comercio-edit

I fear I will never blend into your streets.

Red hair and pale skin is

usually the most interesting thing passing by.

I may never blend in,

but that doesn’t mean I will never belong.


Now more and more faces see me, know me

as more than just an anomaly.

The eyes of the bread baker, the fruit seller

now meet mine and smile, their lips move

in murmurs of greeting.


For so long – before the industrial mining, before so many came to exploit you –

you were just one street.

The people lived by yucca, plantain,

Mining with their bateas on the riverbank.

Now it’s different.

Now I ask, how can your land be so rich

and your people still in so much need?

Mina Rio San Juan-edit

There is much I don’t yet know about you,

things I see but don’t perceive,

things I hear but don’t really get.

You are full of hope –

in your church

in the crisply pressed uniforms of school girls

in your airy new library

in the resilience of your people

in the chance to call you home.

Library Istmina-edit With affection,



*Motorcycle taxis


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