Correcting Writing at the Casa de la Cultura

I want to say: Students, go ahead. 
Write strange sentences, 
those things you call oraciones.
Who cares if we don’t really say things like
small rain or heavy night. 
I know what you mean.

And it’s pasto verde and guacamaya roja, 
so of course you can say grass green 
or macaw red.

In the House of Culture, 
how can I discuss structure
after walking across the classroom then screaming 
at a beetle crunching beneath my foot.
Students pass chicharrones.
Beetles ram into glass, roll around 
brown tiles. Post rain, 
and it’s a beetle village.

Mi amor, we’ve lived here long enough 
to walk on cobblestones without looking down, 
have puked on buses through Tunja’s brown-teared mountains 
flying down narrow roads, no guardrails,

and the mountains never asked
¿De dónde eres? like people do
at the tiendas, empanada stands, 
and every cobblestone between.  

Suppose we all come from                                                  
Strangeness: the beetle’s beating wing,
or the gold light that’s now streaming through
the cracked corner window.                                    

Some students rush out to see it,
so I drop my highlighted notes, and run
toward things I cannot teach.


Sara Ries, a Buffalo, NY native, holds an MFA in poetry from Chatham University, where she received the Best Thesis in Poetry Award. Her first book, Come In, We’re Open, which she wrote about growing up in her parents’ diner, won the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition and was published in June 2010 by the NFSPS Press. Her poem, “Fish Fry Daughter,” was selected by Ted Kooser for his American Life in Poetry column. Ries taught composition and literature at Erie Community College for five semesters before moving to South America to teach EFL for SENA, Colombia’s public university. Her chapbook, Snow Angels on the Living Room Floor, was released in December 2018 by Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in Slipstream, The Buffalo NewsBlue Collar Review, LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Words Without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration, and Earth’s Daughters, among others.