Marc Swan

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On hearing Ernesto Cardenal on his ninetieth birthday

Tropical nights in Central America,
with moonlit lagoons and volcanoes
and lights from presidential palaces,
barracks and sad curfew warnings.    (from Zero Hour)

I’ve never been to Managua
or Tegucigalpa
north of Nicaragua—
gateway to el norte.

I did live in Mexico City
where traffic sputtered and spewed,
where people bent low
under the weight of uncertainty.
There was a revolution.

Ten thousand students rallied 
in Plaza de las Tres Culturas
many were arrested, many were killed.
Their battered bodies 
transported in olive drab trucks
to a remote place over the hill,

buried in a mass grave.
This is an old story.
It’s a story that could be 
from Kosovo or Bosnia,
Rwanda or Sudan,

now Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, 
too familiar these words I write
and the answer…
I’ve never been to Managua.
I know the Sandinistas 

started out on a good path
then lost their way.
I know Father Cardenal left the fold,
found truth within his own spirit.

He knows there are some 
leaders who after the bad leaders 
are driven out become bad leaders

and those leaders who are touted 
as humanitarian
too often drop the human
becoming utilitarian 
to their own needs.


Marc Swan recently left the regular work-a-day to focus on writing, travel and music, not necessarily in that order; poems out this year in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Binnacle, Garbanzo, Nerve Cowboy and The Echo Room, among others.