February 5, 2019

M.L. Clark

INTERVENTION

I get asked if I’m safe
in Colombia—what with, you know,
Venezuela. I explain
the borders. The distance between
a bilious tyrant
and real war—but also,
four years of exodus, countless
protests, the black
markets of diapers and food.
There was a time for me, too,
when Venezuela was simply
the most beautiful word
in a poem on aphasia.
A keeper of vast caverns
and mountains above cloud lines,
summits nearly unchanged
over billions of years. Only last
February, in Bogotá, did
“Venezuela” become
to me, dignity, a calling card
along mendicant streets—
empanadas venezolanas,
sandwiches venezolanos
in a country embracing one
million, many with children
at play in their arms
while they begged on the busses
with useless currency,
and pencils, and sweets,
to commuters who at least always
answered their opening
Buenos días
with the same. Here in Medellín,
in July, an engineer used the money
from my first tattoo to buy
medical supplies
for his next trip back home.
In November, while I was running
up the Hill of Three Crosses,
two more wouldn’t let me
leave after taking my phone
in the shadows before dawn. Safe?
The man with the revolver
looked so ashamed
when he waved me over to one
darkened side of the path
and heard the new fear
in my “Ai, señores, por favor …”
My heart, he said gently.
“Mi corazón, tranquila,”
like I was his daughter
back in Caracas,
whom I would hear tell of
soon enough,
while I sat in the shadows
with two men and the gun,
waiting for their next
target to show up
and asked how long since
they’d last seen their families
and where they were now.
“Mi corazón, tranquila,
¿por qué gritando?”
he had asked when I wasn’t
even screaming.
Not at all. Not when
daybreak was as welcome to me
as perilous for them,
and locals would soon crest
the nearby red sands
to meet their own share of this
recoil from a violence
like the men’s lousy gun
—old and many-historied—
which was not even
loaded, perhaps, because
how could it be, really,
when intervention por la gente
was so often only this
most radical act
of staying present somehow,
any how,
between shots.

from Poets Respond
February 5, 2019

__________

Margaret Clark: “Living in Colombia places me closer not just to the news out of Venezuela but the daily reality behind the news: a reality of massive numbers of displaced and starving persons in a humanitarian crisis that has little chance of resolving rapidly no matter who among the major foreign powers—the U.S. or Russia and China—claims the greater access to Venezuela’s crude oil reserves after this latest dust-up between Maduro and Guaidó settles. Average global citizens would do well to consider donating to non-profits like the UNHCR, which is aggressively serving the needs of the world’s burgeoning refugee population, and which will receive full proceeds from the sale of this poem if it is accepted.” (web)

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