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Vesta

It would’ve been easier if she hadn’t been known

For the chickens. But she was famous for these white,

Undappled hens, which she’d bring to Perquín to sell

On weekends. The mayor’s chickens, they were called,

As if her husband would ever want them (regal though

They were), elegant as the egrets that are still

Left to wander the presidential palace in Panama City.

By the time it happened, the buildings had gathered up

The evening to form a landscape, and the streets grown

Rancid, like oblong containers from the kind of potluck,

In a dank small town, that people will choose to attend

Out of boredom, and call a world.  Her son was staying

In San Salvador to study, and so she was alone.

                                                 They came for her, and her

Box of hens, in three military vehicles, the passengers

Disguised as radicals. It would be different if they hadn’t

Been so quiet. They arrested her. She was accused of

Standing with guerrillas, Vesta at her hearth, in her slacks

And a dead son’s blazer, like a queen expatriate

In tenuous provinces. And her crime was simple, she was

The Mother of Intellectuals, the ideal accomplice.

It’s noted among us that this was recorded in mediocre

Spelling, in a functionary’s awkward Palmer hand,

As mader de intelectos [sic], a piece of wood, then,

Made of the intellect. To make her an idea

Of accomplishment — it would’ve be different if they

Hadn’t been so quiet. Soon, some women

Who stood outside the barracks — the ones who

Ordinarily might jump to buy white chickens — turned

When they heard her singing and heard her ringing

Her keys against the walls, as if her room were full

Of open doors, as if her greatest urgency should be

That the room should leave to meet the evening.

Slowly they turned her body into a torso. Then it was

A floor. Rarely do rooms like these have hands.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is a Latinx poet, scholar and translator, and the winner of the 2019 Lord Alfred Douglas Prize and the 2017 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry. A CantoMundo Fellow, she has recently received scholarships from the Community of Writers at Olympic Valley and the Clarendon Fund, as well as fellowships from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a doctoral candidate in medieval and modern languages at Merton College, Oxford.



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