I simply cannot leave Peru
for a single minute.
My mind wanders while armies mass in Brazil.
What demon’s spawn haunts this child?
Takes possession of the pure and wide-eyed
innocence of youth?
He’s already filled the borders
of Argentina beyond carrying capacity,
with edgy militants.
I guessed (mistakenly, it seems)
that he’d give chase
as I led my people out of tyranny,
crossing the isthmus of Central America
on our way to freedom
in the United States.
But now, left back
in Peru to mind the store,
my friends stare down the barrels
of countless cannons.
And I can only look back
from my disastrous foray in the North,
and watch while the circling dogs close in,
growling, chewing up Peru,
and South America falls
to fascist rule.
Now Ontario’s on the move
and Iceland’s ass is hanging out.
* * * * * * * *
This poem goes back quite a few years. My writing has almost always been based on personal experiences and relationships. Only on rare occasion do I write a poem in which there's an overt focus on politics or greater social issues. This is not one of those poems. Let me digress for a moment just to say that I usually hope that I write poems based on my personal experiences in which greater truths, social commentary or commonalities between individuals do in fact exist, even in spite of my intentions and motivations in the writing. Then of course there's a poem like Losing Peru.
This poem first appeared on the now-defunct website The Fulcrum Online, an online companion to Hamline University's print literary journal, The Fulcrum. On the website, registered users were able to leave comments and questions regarding each published literary work and piece of visual art. Overall, the comments on Losing Peru were positive, though most readers assumed that the poem was some sort of commentary on political strife in the Americas.
In fact, one Christmas morning back when my son was young he received the board game Risk: The Game of Global Domination as a gift. He and I played the game that afternoon. He won. I wrote this poem just after my unconditional surrender.
Previously published at The Fulcrum Online and Snakeskin number 151.