“Scent of Chile at Daybreak”

“Scent of Chile at Daybreak” by Marjorie Agosín

this daybreak
here on a foreign
shore
on the other half
of the world,
and on another ocean
I felt that the sea
smelled like Chile
after the ruthless
rains,
or the days of fog
when ghosts
and those blessed by miracles come out
to haunt among the hills

and I smelled my little homeland
with its fissures like stories
and I sensed the old women of the town
returning in the afternoons to gaze at the sea

little by little
my homeland
opened up for me
like a diaphanous
bouquet
like a path
to travel
in the delight of the air

and this sea that smelled like Chile
brought back childhood and fear
the violence of the flight
the violence of the return . . .
but also this
intangible thing called
home
kitchen
precious scents
intangible memories

here on the coasts of Maine
I returned to Isla Negra
to those encounters with poetry and
his words rocking gently between the waves
the sea smelled like Chile
I write it now in order to speak

[Marjorie Agosín's family migrated to the US to escape the military coup that toppled Salvador Allende's Socialist government and inaugurated the long dark years of Augusto Pinochet]

(Translated by Roberta Gordenstein)

The Virginia Quarterly Review’s Fall issue is on the theme Latin America in the 21st Century. Among other writings is an excerpt from Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas

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3 thoughts on ““Scent of Chile at Daybreak”

  1. Daniel Viveros

    Hi, I just wanted to know what collection is this poem in. And where I could find the spanish version? thank you

    Reply
  2. readerswords Post author

    Daniel- Sorry, but I don’t know. You might want to check out the list of books listed in his short bio on the left at the VQR page where the poem appears…good luck!

    Reply

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