Liana Kapelke-Dale

A metallic smell hangs in the air.
I walk outside to the scent
of waste from countless taxis and
beaten-down combis that streams
into the perpetually grey sky to
form an unbroken veil of
contaminación. I can never get
used to it, this aroma of ironclad
blood that perverts the air, or to
the bitter-cold humidity of
Limeñan winter that infects it.
The atmosphere’s tinny taste
stalks my opened pores, and the
heavy dampness burrows
deep enough to freeze and
crack my pale bones. Somehow,
I remain intact, though chilled
and shivering like a fawn newly
pulled from her mother’s womb.

But even in winter, the flowers
bloom here. I wander past the
green cliffs of Miraflores, watered
by disappearing Peruvian ice
caps, and wonder at the brevity of
shallow roots within the
stubborn permanence of an
ageless landscape. I walk by
cacti as tall as the three-story
houses that they guard,
houses colored brightly like the
fervent graffiti and surreal murals
that cover Lima’s jaded walls in
raw, idealistic hallucinations.
La esperanza es nuestra, one
tells me as I pass by, its
flamboyance compensating
vigorously for the oppressiveness
of las nubes grises that bury
the sun.

Here an ironic solitude filters
through nine million people,
only to catch me in its lonely net.

Here my eccentricity, tattooed
and dancing in platform shoes,
invokes harsh stares that contain
all the anxiety of youth growing
into maturity.

Here the beautiful and the
broken bind like particles
of ocean and desert melding
together into a clarity that
drifts through the air and seeks
my nostrils.

The city calls me closer and
La ciudad me llama más cerca y
moves away from me all at once,
se aleja de mi a la vez,
as I tread its congested streets
al pisar sus calles congestionadas
towards the bluff where I once
hacia el acantilado donde una vez
lost myself in the pulse of a
me perdí en el pulso de un
brokenhearted sunset. But
atardecer con corazón roto. Pero
somehow I know that Lima
de alguna manera, yo sé que Lima
will never put me down, but
nunca me dejará, sino
rather draw me to its damaged
que me llevará a su centro
core and, with all the ferocity
dañado y, con toda la ferocidad
of a wounded tiger, brand me
de un tigre herido, me marcará
with its name.
con su nombre.

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