A Visitor’s Guide To The Favelas Of Rio
by Mary Mackey

Rocinha, Mangeira, Morro de Macacos
up on the hills they are casting the shells
O côro das vozes femininas cantando
looking into the future rattling the buzios
pasting dyed chicken feathers on Carnival floats
beheading dogs smoking crack burning
the buses não esperam a noite

in Cantagalo, Serrinha, Salguiero
they are calling on Xangô the warrior Eshu
who opens and closes roads Oshun who eats
acarajé cooked with palm oil thick as sewage
orange as longing

here on the beach the waves rush toward us
bruising our legs and sucking us in
tem cuidado beware of the undertow

Babalônia, Cajuiero, Tavares Bastos
Morro Azul, Jacarezinho, Cidade de Deus
gunfire rattles off the cinderblock houses
there are dead roses in the water
gold-wrapped candy papayas gum

who made these offerings?
what gods do they pray to?
when will we meet them?
what will they want?


MaryMackey 2Mary Mackey graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan. During her twenties, she lived in the rain forests of Costa Rica. Her published works include five collections of poetry, including Breaking The Fever (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006). Her poems have been praised by Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Dennis Nurkse, Ron Hansen, Dennis Schmitz, and Marge Piercy for their beauty, precision, originality, and extraordinary range. She is also the author of twelve novels including The Widow’s War (Berkley Books, 2009), the story of a female abolitionist who fights with the first African American troops to fight in the Civil War. Mackey’s works have been translated into eleven foreign languages including Japanese, Hebrew, Greek, and Finnish. For the last twenty years she has been traveling to Brazil with her husband, Angus Wright, who writes about land reform and environmental issues. At present she is working on a series of poems inspired by the works of Brazilian poets and novelists. Combining Portuguese and English, she creates poems that use Portuguese as incantation to evoke the lyrical space that lies at the conjunction between Portuguese and English. More of her work can be found at her website.