Letters From Santiago

By Chris Campanioni

She was rising, bird-like

On the first page, the first

Letter I read, the first line

But we never cut the other kites

From a rooftop

Where you could see

The whole city

Eating earth in Oriente

She’d been singing from the well

Mi alma

Mi vida

Slaking thirst

Via rainwater

Fingers closed

Mouth watering

Flowers, La Mariposa


Signs on Los Maceo


So many assurances

¿Cómo vuela?

North American pop, discotecas, business-

Men, nightclubs open all day

Cine Rialto, thin films

Of forgetting, she recalled

Black lacquered flakes

Painted over

Steel Pots

Rayar la pintura

Gunshots in the mountains

The smell of sugar

Burning on New Year’s Day

So many more assurances

La última traición

At dawn,

they threw the bodies in a pit

Cinema verité

Delayed three hours

At the camera crew’s behest

For better lighting

The worst kind of cheat

The worst kind of deception

The worst kind of thief


Air as thick as dreams

Too hot to be bothered

To bathe, she wrote

No choice but to listen

Radio Bemba

No sé     No sé     No sé

Lip service



Everyone informing

On everyone

¿Cómo vuela?

She clung to mambo on the street

Son Montuno


Three-fourth and six-eighth


En el Parque Céspedes

Holding hands

Huddled close

In the back of los camellos


Never silent nights

Rising, bird-like

Mad with love

People used to speak

She said

Con todo mi corazón

Chris Campanioni has worked as a journalist, model, and actor, and he teaches literature and creative writing at Baruch College and Pace University, and new form journalism at John Jay. His “Billboards” poem responding to Latino stereotypes and mutable—and often muted—identity in the fashion world was awarded the 2013 Academy of American Poets Prize. His novel, Going Down, was selected as Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards.