The lift opens to the hall of the flat and what seems
hundreds of balloons hugging the cream-colored
ceiling, their strings an instrument or curtain. A child
slides on socks along the marble floor. The one whose
birthday it is receives her parcel wrapped in pink
and silver, only another jacket from trendy ‘peek-a-boo’.
Nannies and maids busy making the hot chocolates
and triangular sandwiches, crusts cut off. Mothers
and grandmothers chat about the friend of the cousin
of the son of the ex-minister, and where to buy
those retro-design boots, inspired by John Wayne.
Cariño, te voy a llevar. I’ll take you.
Outside wait the chauffeurs near the SUVs.
As I watch and listen, I remember a small brown hand
holding a frayed rope on the other end of which
a llama trots with ill-concealed bad feelings,
brown shiny cheeks painted a blue-red
by the extreme cold on the Altiplano. Sandals
made from rubber tires, snow on the pebbled path.
The poncho gives some warmth, the multicolored cap
knitted by Granny with love and intricate patterns
covers his ears down to his chin. He’s bringing the animal
to the adobe house where his mother cooks for the tourists
who may just leave a dollar or two. I buy a couple
of earthenware bulls, small enough to fit into my rucksack
and powerful enough to protect me from evil.
by Rose Mary Boehm, from Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back
Editor’s Note: The juxtaposition of people and place in this poem’s two stanzas illuminates the disparity of monetary wealth with poverty, yet still the last line reminds the reader that evil is a choice.