When You Ask About Your Native Country

by Beverly Burch

for my daughter

First we’ll describe Asunción: slow-moving and luminous hot then hotter, the  sun shining even when it rains. Hibiscus, bougainvillea bloom in alleys, canopies of  lapachos lines the streets. Butterflies the size of small birds rise & fall among the flowers. In the Rio Paraguay there are silver fish with teeth like razors. Then we’ll praise the  mestizo beauty of the people & how even the men love children. Clerks and taxi drivers scooped you up, a waiter danced you in the air: la luna, la luna. We never locked the door & walked safely after midnight. Everyone speaks Guarani as well as Spanish. Only  later, we’ll reveal how the Guarani are all but gone. Sidewalks are tiled, but by the river people live in cardboard boxes. Young men in uniforms guard the banks with Uzis. Strangers stopped us on the street: “Keep the baby in so her skin won’t darken.” Finally, the thirty years of Stroessner, who sheltered Mengele, Somoza. We’ll introduce Paraguay by the degrees. Let you love your native country before you fear it.

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