By: Esperanza Hope Snyder

Bogotá, 2022

It’s not the cookie

made of egg whites,

and sugar--

I’m thinking about.

It’s not the dance--

couples embracing,

feet moving

to music.

It’s not the ghosts,

trees, houses & people

I no longer recognize,

or the park, now in ruins.

It’s not the black & white

photograph of me

as a child on a chair

with a black & white cat,

nor my memory of sitting

under a dining room table,

mouth filled

with stolen cookies.

My merengues don’t live

on a market shelf

but displayed in the altar

of my childhood

with a doll & a dog,

my grandfather, my mother

and brother, my father’s

absence, two languages.

Years later, seeing my brother,

a bag of merengues in his hand,

it’s not the sugar I taste

but the past.

Esperanza Hope Snyder’s poems and translations have appeared in Alehouse Press, Blackbird, The Comstock Review, The Gettysburg Review, International Poetry Review, OCHO, 32 Poems, Poetry Northwest, and other journals. Honors include the Donald Everitt Axinn Award in Poetry for Bread Loaf, poetry fellowships for the Gettysburg Review’s Conference, and the Peter Taylor Fellowship in Poetry at The Kenyon Review. Esperanza is Assistant Director of Bread in Sicily and co-coordinator of the Lorca Prize. Her poetry book, Esperanza and Hope, was published in 2018 (Sheep Meadow Press). 

Reflective Engagement:

As we navigate through the layers of this poem, let us reflect on the intricate weave of memories, places, and people that shape our identities. The following questions are offered as a guide to connect more deeply with the themes presented:

  1. Memory and Sensory Experience: Reflect on a childhood memory that, like the merengues, is not just a recollection of an object or a moment but a symbol of deeper emotional truths and connections. How does this memory influence your understanding of the past and its impact on your present?
  2. The Role of Place in Memory: Bogotá, as described in the poem, holds both the tangible and the intangible aspects of the past. Consider a place from your own past that holds a similar significance. How does this place, with its changes and constancies, contribute to your narrative of self?
  3. Familial Connections and Absence: The poem touches on the presence and absence of family members, shaping the poet's memories and identity. How have the presences and absences in your own family contributed to your understanding of love, loss, and belonging?
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