breathe out

A building in downtown Tacna is painted by a campaign. The design says "Marca Así", or "Mark this way" and shows a giant S painted on the wall.

 i lose my breath


golden afternoon strikes the black and white tiles, 

the stripes curving and dancing before my eyes

ocean air winds its way through the city, 

the flag billowing, red and white dancing together

i step down an empty alley, 

the bustle of the city suddenly cut off by brick walls and narrow streets

my bus screams down the pan-american highway, passing the roundabout 

where there is always

a game of volleyball

someone napping 

a family picnicking 

the shade of a tall cactus

a lost dog

a loose kite

A team of students dance in a circle in the school's patio while others look on.

i am filled with love


the shouts

and laughter of 

my students 

fill the street


a pattering of feet and 

a soft voice

wake me from my nap beneath the open window

even when

a soccer ball comes crashing 

against our house, 

glass flying, 

faces of terrified neighbors peering out from a nearby alley

I sit on the sidewalk outside our house and play with a five year-old neighbor who stands in front of me.

i am sad


the heat of summer 

means the start of a farewell


the months turn to weeks, 

the weeks turn to days,

and the day will come that I board a plane, 

homeward bound 


the idea of home 

is more abstract than before


i dream of adventure

and dream of home

and in my dreaming, discover I have been in Tacna all along 

Students with red and blue pom poms goof around on the bus.

i am at peace


i sit by my adopted tíos y tías

mis primos y primas

mi hermano y mi hermana 

mi mamá y mi papá 


i did not know two years ago 


have loved me all this time

who ask me:

when will you return?

i do not know

Students with red and blue ribbons in their hair look out the window of the bus.

yesterday an old vecina asked me: how long will you be staying for? 

and it felt

as if my journey had only just begun

Walking down a dirt road, returning from the beach. There is a sign that reads "Play Llostay" or "Llostay Beach" with an advertisement for coca-cola beneath it. I am in the foreground walking away, carrying a beach umbrella and a backpack and wearing a large straw hat.

Originally published at

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