Saturday, December 29, 2007


A friend asked me to return to this early poem. I met Ernesto Cardenal for the first time last May in Hermosillo, Mexico at the annual Horas de Junio festival. I was honored to present a paper on his work with the great poet at my side. But I digress. This homage moves beyond Cardenal to honor youthful ideals and ambition.

May 23, 1985 for JB

What are you doing down in Nicaragua?
have you drunk coffee yet at the Café Buena Vista,
have you met Cardenal?

A woman I know is so intrigued by your visit,
what about his lover, she said, doesn’t she care
about his proximity to bombs, Contras,
Sandinistas, long lines of women after bread.

Would you live within an embargo,
she asked knowingly, as I sipped coffee
In my West Side room and thought
of the train that took a recent love
away, nothing more, not bread
or tea, fear of the yankee.

Your grandmother said you reminded her
of the boys that went to Spain.
Is there still Spain and a civil war?
Catalonia, Neruda, Garcia Lorca.
Tell me, what are you doing down in Nicaragua?

I have not travelled in years.
I no longer know black or white,
Naïve yes, Botha is evil, true,
and the right wars, Jaffna,
Palestine, so I ask you again:
what are you doing down in Nicaragua?

To observe, you said,
to read and write
and keep your hands off, perhaps.

When you left
that early Sunday morning
shortly after Dawn,
I imagined hair blown back
and dreams falling like flowers
off an unadorned tree,

waiting on Broadway for a taxi,
belongings sent off to London,
carrying a few clothes, notebooks, shoes,
a few too many socks,
but you could not think of everything,
a hat.

A wallet of single dollar bills
to live like a king
and look and practice Spanish.
(Rest your head in some dark, loping hair.)

A good contrast to the twin towers, you said,
to see Nicaragua before you left the Americas,

to walk in the blessing of morning
with the fisherman and cobbler,
preacher, drinker, market women.

Tell me, what are you doing down in Nicaragua
and what have you seen?

c) Indran Amirthanayagam. Use only with author’s permission


Elif said...

Dear Indran,
What a wonderful site! Now I see that what the world really needs is more trilingual blogging poets with a sense for "local color."
I especially enjoyed "today's" poem about Cardenal, as well as your father's poem about the eastern man and western man, and the poem-dialogue with Nazim Hikmet. My own father is a big Nazim Hikmet fan and when I went to Moscow to study, the first "site" I visited was Hikmet's grave in Novodevichii. Carved into the tombstone is a black image like the shadow of a man, walking among the graves.
Thanks for linking to my blog on your page - I have added a link to you as well.
Best wishes for the new year,
P.S. Neruda's Libro de preguntas is one of my favorites too - although my favorite Neruda poem is the one where his friend throws the "hieroglyphic chicken" into the face of the Paris waiter.

Indran Amirthanayagam said...

Elif, what a lovely affirmation of the site, thanks. I have never visited Russia. I must visit Nazim's grave. Tell me about contemporary Russian poets. Are you in touch with some? I love the hieroglyphic chicken image but can't recall the poem at the moment...will have to look in other Neruda books. take care and all the best for the New Year. Indran

Jill said...

Hi Indran,

I especially enjoyed 'seeing' in this poem.

Thanks for stopping by my site and for linking. I've now added your site. I look forward to staying in touch with you and your work.


Indran Amirthanayagam said...

Jill, this blogging is not half bad....a great way to send poems into the universe and hear back.
Cheers and look forward to reading you via your blog until we are lucky to meet again at a festival.


Neurotic Poet said...

this is an amazing poem.

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