Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
My Nicaragua
By Salomón de la Selva
  YOU take the street on which the large church fronts
And go some twenty blocks and up a hill
And past the three-arch bridge until you come
To Guadalupe, where the houses are
No stately Spanish buildings, flat and lazy,        5
As in the center of the town you see them—
Heavy with some three centuries upon them,
Accustomed to the sunlight and the earthquakes,
To sudden dawns, long days and sudden sunsets,
Half bored, you fancy, by these ways of nature—        10
But little things, ugly almost, and frail,
With low red roofs and flimsy rough-cut doors,
A trifle better than an Indian hut,
Not picturesque, just dreary commonplace—
As commonplace and dreary as the flats        15
Here, in your cities, where your poor folks live—
And yet, you notice, glad the sun is shining,
And glad a cooling wind begins to blow,
Too glad, too purely, humbly glad to say it;
And all the while afraid of the volcanoes,        20
Holding their breath lest these should wake to crush them.
Look through these doors and see the walls inside
With holy pictures, saints and angels, there,
Sold to my people, reverenced by them;
Look through these doors and see the children, playing        25
Or wrangling, just as children will elsewhere;
Look through these doors and see the women, sewing,
Setting their tables, doing the thousand things
Hardly worth noticing, that women do
Around their houses, meaning life to them.        30
And if you listen you may hear them singing—
Not anywhere are better songs than theirs.
It’s nothing thrilling! Tourists do not care,
And if you hire a common guide he’ll never
Think of directing you, to see this mere        35
Unhonored dailiness of people’s lives
That is the soil the roots of beauty know.
Yet, if you wish to know my country—it’s there.
The old Cathedral that the Spaniards built,
With hand-carved altars for two thousand saints;        40
The ruined fortress where they say that Nelson,
Who was a pirate then, lost his left eye
Fighting a woman, all that tourists see—
That’s what my country used to be, not now.
The “dear” hotel, with palm-trees in the courtyard,        45
And a self-playing piano drumming rags;
The shops of German, English and French owners;
The parlors of the ruling class, adorned
With much the same bad taste as in New York—
That’s not my country either! But the rows        50
Of ugly little houses where men dwell,
And women—all too busy living life
To think of faking it—that is my country,
My Nicaragua, mother of great poets.
And when you see that, what? Just this: Despite        55
Newspaper revolutions and so forth,
The different climate and the different
Traditions and the different grandfathers,
My people are pretty much the same as yours:
Folks with their worries and their hopes about them,        60
Working for bread and for a something more
That ever changes, hardly twice the same;
Happy and sad, the very joy and sorrow
Your people feel; at heart just plainly human:
And that is worth the journey to find out.        65

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