Two Poems by Jenny McBride


Refugio at 5000 meters
Where a páramo fox begs for bread
They brew coca tea
For climbers encrusted with ice axes.

Rolling through rocky mists of vicuñas
Bicycles like butterflies
On the great one’s ancient slopes
We plummet roundly
Through cushion flora then tufted grassland
Lunching near Inca ruins
At a spring with carbonated flavor
Amid bushy orange thistles and cubic boulders.

And finally lower through desolate villages
Where dogs pack their growling
And a little boy asked for our clothes
Where he leaned on a wall in mud
Dazed with chronic want and strain.

From vicuña to ostrich
From snow to tropics
From abandoned road to the streets of Riobamba
Where buses barely spared our souls
To quicken our lives.


Landing Strip

The missionaries taught the Achuar
To live in one place
(Is the devil a nomad?)
And many communities were structured
Around that first missionary site
With landing strip
Though in most villages the landing strip
Never seen an airplane,
Is only there because
The missionaries taught the Achuar
To live in one place.

I am in the six-seat, not-so-new plane
Looking out at familiar Achuar faces.
Propeller spinning wildly
Butterfly appears before it
Achuar eyes watching the plane.
Engine roars into take-off decibels
And I have no fear for my life
But how I fear for theirs.


Jenny McBride’s writing has appeared in Streetwise, Green Social Thought, Conclave and other journals. She makes her home in the rainforest of southeast Alaska.