Island Body

By Richard Blanco

Forced to leave home, but home
never leaves us. Wherever exile
takes us, we remain this body made
from the red earth of our island—
our ribs taken from its montes
its breeze our breaths. We stand
with its palmeras. Our eyes hold
its blue-green sea. Waterfalls
echo in our ears. On our wrists,
jasmine. Our palms open, close
like its hibiscus to love, be loved.

We thrive wherever we remain
true to our lucha—the hustle
of our feet walking to work
as we must, our oily hands
fixing all the broken beauty
we must fix, our soiled hands
growing what we must grow,
or cutting what must be cut,
our backs carrying the weight
of our island’s sands, our pulse
its waves, our sweat the gossamer
dew and dust of its sunrises,
our voice the song of its sinsontes
and its son nested in our souls.

Wherever the world spins us,
home remains the island that
remains in us. Its sun still sets
in our eyes, its clouds stay still
above us, our hands still hold
its tepid rain. We’re still caught
under its net of stars, still listen to
its moon crooning above its dirt
roads. We’re its rivers, the hem
of its coast and lace of its sierras,
its valley windsongs, its vast seas
of green sugarcane fields. We’re
our island’s sweetness as bitter
as the taste of having to leave it.


Richard Blanco, "Island Body," from How to Love a Country: Poems, Beacon Press, 2019.