To Valparaíso

Marlena Chertock

Cristían was right. I’ve already felt the magic. I felt it
when the micro tilted slightly
as it began climbing the cerros,
ever since I looked at the twisting map of cerros
and at the bottom, El Plan. The aimless winding easy
to get lost in, and one street can take you all the way
down to the sea, the port. I felt it as we left Santiago
and drove past city streets, closely connected,
the dry brown mountains rising on our side,
specks of green
sprouting out randomly — trees.

As we left Pablo Neruda’s seaside house
on Isla Negra, I felt more connected to el mar.
I sat on black rocks jutting
into high tide
for an hour, letting the waves hypnotize me.
With sea salt on my lips and face, I felt something different.

This is Cristían’s puerto,
his ciudad. He said he loves it before he introduced himself.
The houses sit slanted on cerros,
all various shades of blue, yellow, and orange.
At night, the house and streetlights become thousands of candles illuminating
the cerros, calles, and guiding ships and captains back to their puerto.

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