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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
Photo by David González.

Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York. His numerous poetry collections from W. W. Norton & Company include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), and Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996). He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (SOUTH END PRESS,1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Other poems by this author