In high Peru, in Nicaragua,
throughout Patagonia, in the cities,
you’ve had no rights, you’ve nothing:
cup of misery, America’s
abandoned child, there’s no
law, no judge to protect your land,
your little house with corn.
When your chiefs came,
your masters, by now forgotten
the ancient dream of talons and knives,
the law came to depopulate your sky,
to seize your revered fields,
to debate the rivers’ water,
to steal the kingdom of trees.
They testified against you, stamped
your shirts, stuffed your heart
with leaves and papers,
buried you in cold edicts,
and when you awakened on the edge
of the most precipitous calamity,
dispossessed, solitary, vagrant,
they gave you jail, bound you,
shackled you so that swimming
you couldn’t escape the water of the poor,
so that you’d drown kicking.
The benign judge reads you clause
number Four Thousand, Third Paragraph,
the same used in the entire
blue geography liberated
by others like you who fell,
and you’re instituted by his codicil
without appeal, mangy cur.
Your blood asks, how were the wealthy
and the law interwoven? With what
sulfurous iron fabric? How did the
poor keep falling into the tribunals?
How did the land become so bitter
for poor children, harshly
nourished on stone and grief?
So it was, and so I leave it written.
Their lives wrote it on my brow.