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The Republic of Poetry

Apr. 3, 2011
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    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.

Martín Espada is the author of more than fifteen books. His new collection of poems, The Trouble Ball, will be published by Norton this spring. His poem is from his previous collection, The Republic of Poetry (Norton, 2006), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Simon Fellowship and the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.


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