A new year poem for Latin America, ‘La Paciente’
America newly delineated, by Jodocus Hondius, engraved by H. Picard, 1640 (public domain)

Latin America lies on a hospital gurney after yet another amputation
She trembles in shock from her Brazilian breast to her Andean rump
The Mexican Gulf traces the profile of her head, thrown back in agony
Her “Indian” hair has shaken loose from its mountainous comb of bone
So that the thick braid of Central America is twisted by spasms of pain
On the variegated necklace of the Antilles, the Cuban pearl is missing
Her arms are as invisible as the millions who tend her fecundity, they
Stretch beneath two seas, reefy fingers flecked with the gold of galleons
Her remaining leg strains toward Antarctica but cannot stand in the slush

What ails this proud mestiza whose honeyed lips the world once kissed?
Whose mocha skin exudes sugar, coffee, emeralds, gold and oil?
Whose glorious components were once parsed by a Pope so that
The Kings of Iberia might share her riches with the church of Rome?

Her autochthonous heart is aflame and her lungs are collapsing!
“Hook her to an EKG,” the doctors mutter staring at their screens
The prognosis is dire, her arteries are evaporating despite repeated
Investments of foreign antibodies and her strength is sapped by
Internal parasites who have invaded her stomach, lining only the
Plushest pockets, she lacks medical insurance, has too many kids
Any trace of a legacy has vanished into numberless bank accounts
Yet she survives! The docs are amazed at her resilience. Half a century
Of extractive lust and malnutrition have not extinguished her vitality
What a mother! Her munificent breasts still swell with liquid profit!

They smile behind their masks and write prescriptions: “IMF capsules,
A steady drip of dependency, an intra-gluteal dose of neoliberal gamma
Globulin to stifle progressive infection. She’s resting on her supply side,
My god what an ass! Let her sleep for another century, when she wakes
Remind her how much she owes us and tell her when Biden starts his
Rounds, the ward will be safe for democracy.”

December 2020


Peter Lownds
Peter Lownds

Peter Lownds is an author and translator living in Los Angeles.