'Documentary' a poem by Claribel Alegria


by Claribel Alegria


Come, be my camera.

Let’s photograph the ant heap

The queen ant

Extruding sacks of coffee,

My country.

It’s the harvest.

Focus on the sleeping family

Cluttering the ditch.

Now, among trees:


Dark-skinned fingers

Stained with honey.

Shift to a long shot:

The file of ant men

Trudging down the ravine

With sacks of coffee.

A contrast:

Girls in colored skirts

Laugh and chatter,

Filling their baskets

With berries.

Focus down.

A close-up of the pregnant mother

Dozing in the hammock.

Hard focus on the flies

Spattering her face.


The terrace of polished mosaics

Protected from the sun.

Maids in white aprons

Nourish the ladies

Who play canasta,

Celebrate invasions

And feel sorry for Cuba.

Izalco sleeps

Beneath the volcano’s eye.

A subterranean growl

Makes the village tremble.

Trucks and ox-carts

Laden with sacks

Screech down the slopes.

Besides coffee

They plant angels

In my country.

A chorus of children

And women

With the small white coffin

Move politely aside

As the harvest passes by.

The riverside women,

Naked to the waist,

Wash clothing,

The truck drivers

Exchange jocular obscenities

For insults.

In Panchimalco,

Waiting for the ox-cart to pass by,

A peasant

With hands bound behind him

By the thumbs

And his escort of soldiers

Blinks at the airplane:

A huge bee

Bulging with coffee growers

And tourists.

The truck stops in the market place.

A panorama of iguanas,


Strips of meat,

Wicker baskets,

Piles of nances,







Dogs, pupusas, jocotes,

Acrid odors,

Taffy candles,

Urine puddles, tamarinds,

The virginal coffee

Dances in the millhouse.

They strip her,

Rape her,

Lay her out on the patio

To doze in the sun.

The dark storage sheds


The golden coffee

Sparkles with malaria,





A truck roars

Out of the warehouse.

It bellows uphill

Drowning out the lesson:

A for alcoholism,

B for battalions,

C for corruption,

D for dictatorship,

E for exploitation,

F for the feudal power

Of fourteen families

And etc, etc, etc.

My etc country,

My wounded country,

My child,

My tears,

My obsession.


- translated from Spanish by the author and Darwin F Flakoll

Clara Isabel Alegría Vides is a Nicaraguan poet, essayist, novelist, and journalist who is a major voice in the literature of contemporary Central America. She writes under the pseudonym Claribel Alegría.