Owed to Neruda; Love of Our Times

Today we can write the most tumultuous lines.

Write, for example ‘The city’s broken
and the children fracture in the cracks.’

The cop chopper circuits clipping the sky with clamor.

Today we can write the most troubled lines.
We believed her home “Mother of Exiles,” and sometimes she called us hers.

Through days we vowed and placed our hands over our heart
and kissed the grind day after day under the fading sky.

She beckoned sometimes, her “lamp beside the golden door” and we swore
how could we not have loved the arc of her back.

Today we can write the most unsettling lines.
To think that we do not have her. To feel that we were never part of her.

To hear immigrant nights still more dissolute without her.
And the poem lifts souls of migrant feet like Atlantic crossings on ships.

What does it matter that our sweat cannot quench her.
Our days shatter and she is an illusion.

This is not all. In the distance someone is dreaming. In the distance, a song.
Our labor satisfies but we do not belong.

We scan the horizon as though to meet her.
Our hearts search for her, and she is not with us.

The same sun emblazoning the same fields and cities.
We, of that time, are not valued the same.

We no longer love her, that’s certain, but how we want her.
Our voice utters sound reason to open her eyes and remember.

Another’s. She was bred for another. Like our flesh before.
Her name. Her infinite borders. Our land.

We no long love her, that’s certain, but maybe we love her.
Home is so small, forgetting is so vast.

Because through days like these we melded limbs entwined
our memory dissatisfies with each of her denials.

Though this might not be the last pain that we will endure
and these the last words that we write for her.


© Karina Oliva May 08, 2010


  • Karina Oliva-Alvarado

    Karina Oliva was born in Santa Ana El Salvador and has lived for most of her life in the immigrant community of Pico Union in Los Angeles. A UC Berkeley graduate, she earned her PhD in Ethnic Studies with a focus on Central American literature written in the United States. She currently teaches at Scripps College. Karina is also part of various poetry collectives that actively use and promote art as a means for social change, cultural expression, and memory.

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