Alchemy: Outside Port au Prince by Lenore Balliro

They pick their way through the sadness of twisted chrome, clots of knotted wire, oil drums, blue paint flaking, beneath a faded sign, AVÈTISMAN, on the side of a slanted roof, a lean-to, but no guard dog, and no guard. They choose to visit at dusk, still light enough to harvest the corrugated, the gleaming, the rare bits of brass gone to verdigris. The older one gathers coils of barbed wire tenderly in his arms like dangerous babies. Or the babies’ nests, protection. The younger one collects cans, the lighter the better. They no longer smell the stink of night soil or feel the squeak of Styrofoam beneath their calloused feet. They know what bends, what remains rigid. What yields to the strength of the hand, what needs the foundry’s fire for transformation. Their fingers, coated with oxide dust, touch everything. They envision: what will the blancos buy? Tin bouquets, sharp edges softened by hours at the file. Wire stems–so clever. The sun begins to settle, mounds of iron cast their shadows, slightly sinister. The chain-link fence clinks its music in the evening wind. They wait for rusted stars to fall.


Lenore Balliro is a writer, community art worker, and garden mentor in Gloucester, Massachusetts. She has worked for over 30 years with adult literacy programs teaching and advocating for immigrants and refugees.

Photo by Nick van den Berg

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