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The Republic of Poetry

By Martín Espada

                For Chile


In the republic of poetry,
a train full of poets
rolls south in the rain
as plum trees rock
and horses kick the air,
and village bands
parade down the aisle
with trumpets, with bowler hats,
followed by the president
of the republic,
shaking every hand.

In the republic of poetry,
monks print verses about the night
on boxes of monastery chocolate,
kitchens in restaurants
use odes for recipes
from eel to artichoke,
and poets eat for free.

In the republic of poetry,
poets read to the baboons
at the zoo, and all the primates,
poets and baboons alike, scream for joy.

In the republic of poetry,
poets rent a helicopter
to bombard the national palace
with poems on bookmarks,
and everyone in the courtyard
rushes to grab a poem
fluttering from the sky,
blinded by weeping.

In the republic of poetry,
the guard at the airport
will not allow you to leave the country
until you declaim a poem for her
and she says Ah! Beautiful.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  From "The Republic of Poetry" (W.W Norton 2006).
Martín Espada

Martín Espada has published more than fifteen books. His latest book of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton), received the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award and an International Latino Book Award. His previous collection, The Republic of Poetry (Norton) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  The title poem of his collection Alabanza (Norton), about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (South End), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Shelley Memorial Award, Espada teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

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