When You Ask About Your Native Country
First well describe Asuncion: slow-moving and luminous,
hot, then hotter, the sun shining even when it rains.
Lapacho trees shading streets with yellow blossoms, butterflies
the size of small birds rising and falling among the flowers.
In the Rio Paraguay schools of fish move like silver ribbons,
hyacinths mass into floating islands. Well talk about
the people, how no ones in a hurry and even men love babies.
Taxi drivers scooped you up, waiters waltzed you
past the tables. We never locked the door & walked safely
after midnight. Well tell how everyone speaks Guaraní
as well as Spanishyet nothing of how the Guaraní are all
but gone, how sidewalks are tiled, but by the river people
live in cardboard boxes. That your niñeras kept you in so your
skin wouldnt darken. Well forget young men in uniforms
guarding banks with Uzis. Wars that killed half the population.
Thirty years of Stroessner, who sheltered Mengele, Somoza.
Well just recall the scented couryards, that jacaranda
blooms in alleys, and all the men are fools for children.
First published in Poetry International. Copyright © Beverly Burch
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