||A Writer Writes Three Writers & Three Poems
Che Guevera walked into town today.
He flew out the next, mangled body
tied to the bottom of a helicopter.
He came to town tired, winded, looking
for comrades. Speaking Spanish
he appeared briefly in the plaza.
My neighbors speak Quechua or Aymara, and some Spanish.
Did they need him, this Cuban revolutionary?
These urban campesinos working the mines for a dime a day?
Maybe Che needed them. More than he knew. Than they knew.
He, out of breath, out of time, and out of life
lingered too long.
Hide out Che! I would have yelled out
across the plaza. Go to where your brothers are!
Descend, into that hell.
Silver, gone, shipped to Spain.
Remnants of tin, thats what left.
But you knew that, didnt you Che?
The mine only takes, doesnt give back.
These urban Quechua speaking fathers die,
when their 30th birthday rolls around.
Like you they are gasping, but they
dont know, unlike you, what is
killing them. They are haunted.
No word for silicosis nor black lung.
No health insurance. Their comrades
and brothers die. The next day I welcome their children.
Into the hogar. The home for miners kids.
You are hunted. Haunted too?
What is your connection to them?
Whats behind the fire in your eyes?
Both of you die today.
You and the Vision.
This vision of a South American revolution
does not go full circle.
Your death takes away
its first crack at life.
Stand in line. Che.
Your lofty phrases
here in the mountains
at 12,000 feet.
Found no perch, no catchbasin.
Like ashes now, floating
just floating, aspiring fragments.
Like you, too late,
with no homebase.
You said. But you missed them.
Only students and taxi cab drivers in that plaza.
You missed them, standing on that platform,
They were down below,
chewing cocoa leaves. Lunch.
Cool moist cave like mine.
Comrades and brothers, pausing
for breath, for a little euphoria.
Each day they go down,
until breath runs out
or the canary dies. Either way
Che, you missed out.
Broken connection. Until the end.
Until the end of your day. This day.
The day your breath ran out.
Like them you were lifted up.
Taken away. But they didnt
know you, didnt miss you.
Broken connection No circle..
I knew you were in town.
The older boys told me.
These orphan boys. They knew the scoop.
They knew you were here.
But they said to me, demasiado tarde.
Too late for their fathers
Too late them for them. Oh
yes, they were learning Spanish,
but they want me to teach them
Escape clause, out of the mine.
They dont want to go with me
tonight to the plaza.
University students said,
Bring a candle. But my
boys say, Do these students
light a candle for our papas?
Who was that Che anyway?
Demasiado tarde. For him, for us.
These orphan boys heads have have already turned,
away from the Plaza, from the
Bolivian Altiplano, from Cuba.
They turn toward me:
Senior Willy, tell us again how to say
Los Estados Unidos in English?
Bill Coolidge is currently living on a sailboat, working at St. Vincents Day Hospitality Center for the homeless, and writing a memoir, as well as publishing essays about the connection between the homeless and endangered species. This poem comes from his time in Oruro, Bolivia, the altiplano [high plain], and Che Guevera's visit followed by his dying the following day.
Coolidge's Peace Corps training group had been originally assigned to Tanzania, but Peace Corps was kicked out of the country and his group was quickly converted to a Bolivia mines project. Unfortunately the Bolivian union and miners were in brutal conflict and the PCVs never got to the mines. Coolidge landed in Oruro (with his then wife) and worked at co-ops, a hogar (a home for orphans of miners) and taught English to Bolivian railroad engineers trying to make sense of British manuals.
These equatorial evenings
I end in a hammock
listening to drums accompany neighbors
Owls and bats fan the darkness
ancestors, its said, visiting the living.
Anonymous stars and the familiar moon rise
while sweat meanders
down temple, cheek, neck, and breast,
soaking into cotton
as formless as this easy boredom.
No other light.
Only a frog splashing in the dishpan.
Kinney Thiele has done over 200 talks, exhibits, media interviews and stories about her experiences as a health and rural development Volunteer in Sierra Leone. By day she works for SRI International (formerly the Stanford Research Institute) in California in corporate communications and marketing. After hours she writes, gardens, and attends public lectures and book talks several times a week
Sultry too hot and lazy breeze
Making my own skin moist
The sun and the salt
And the sand
Stinging my eyes like fine grains of sugar
Sweet and cloying
On my tongue like mangoes
Plump and juicy
A rooster practices (smoldering)
Trash (crows) in the dust-choked weeds
Church choirs (bleat)
Mountains lush primordial amazons
Leafy ferns graceful
Razor grass stained with blood from my
palm (trees swaying)
Ocean gleaming azure womb
Brilliant coral stunning
Angel fish flying, darting, their fins are
humming (birds longing for nectar)
Their songs are more quiet than
Hello, good night, you okay
Psst!, I like to see you, and Hey Baby
Not quite comfortable
Perched on the edge here of
Not quite home
But more real
Than the Technicolor land of the free
And the brave and Purple Mountains
Before and friends and family and we and us
Now and he and she and they
No one has frozen like caterpillars
Cocooned waiting for butterfly birth
Coveted moments-shared in limbo long distance
Letters now and wishes on stars
The same stars here as there
And the moon
Time here passes slow and fast and slow
Dizzy living these days
The air is . . .
After unexpectedly finding herself "medically separated" due to a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery, Meagan Pfeltz has spent the past five months alternately wistfully reflecting upon her Peace Corps service and attempting to properly demonstrate her increased appreciation for non-starchy foods, air-conditioning and hot running water. Following a long and arduous job search, she will begin employment as an Administrative Assistant to the Director with the Population Leadership Program, an international project of the Public Health Institute.