Poetry from Guatemala

Mexico/Guatemala 10

I am tired of not being allowed to study where I wish
And yet studying anywhere is a privilege
I am tired of not being able to decide what I eat
And yet having food is a privilege
I am tired of not being able to wash clothes, dry dishes or clean my own room
And yet many people would give a lot to have respite from these things
I am tired of not being able to communicate
And yet many people do not have a voice in their own country

I am amazed at my exhaustion, frustration, and sometimes counting of weeks here
It is a great privilege to be here, especially with a group and professors –
a very unique experience
My host parents make sure I am well taken care of
and every day the beautiful view from the third and fourth floor of CASAS makes me
pause and take notice again
It is an interesting balance: knowing how to take one’s feelings seriously
and then how to give perspective to them from a wider context …

– Stephanie DeHart

Rachel Hershey and her host parents

Power, desired by the world
The world, wanting more, bringing pain.
Pain, walls built, space between.
Is there a difference between the world and I?
Power, obtained through the money of the wealthy
The wealthy, exploiting, consuming, bringing pain.
Pain, money doesn’t bring joy.
Is there a difference between the wealthy and I?
Power lacking in the lives of the poor.
The poor, working, striving, falling, bringing pain.
Pain, the walls keep getting steeper to climb
Is there a difference between the poor and I?
Power, something I have.
I, wanting control of my destiny, bringing pain.
Pain, my plans fail.
Will we ever let go of power?

– Rachel Hershey

Ruth Maust with her host mom

Today I smiled at
The preoccupied woman
Who I pass almost daily
The preoccupied woman and the hurried student
One day
As I make my way to the bus stop
I will greet them both
Buenos Dias

This day twice a day and every day
Buenos Dias
To the guardia of my colonia
One day
I will ask
A veces le aburre su trabajo?

Some days
I run into neighbors
I chat with CASAS staff
I start conversations with my mamita in the hopes that
Some day
When I leave this place
Something will remain

– Ruth Maust

Kiersten Rossetto, Joel DeWald, Marta (their Spanish teacher), Ruth Maust, and Rose Byler after the final presentation


A million ants carrying
10 million leaves as
250 tons of cocaine is carried past
250 young soldiers.
Using a relative of cloves as
Mosquito repellant,
Campesinos harvesting palms –
Carrying Jesus into Jerusalem.

– Rose Byler

Jenn Leaman with her host family

Kaleidoscope Hope
Colors swirl, blend, and mingle.
Bougainvillea, bird of paradise, trajes, huipiles and dirty clothes alike.
The cloth, the flowers, the eyes, and the smiles.
Everything Guatemala seems brighter,
Except the history and perhaps the future.
Oppression, discrimination, corruption
All here too.
Glazed hungry eyes beg for food
While golden Quetzals sit atop a chandelier
And preachers fly in private planes.
Where is justice for them, other than their own
Doll-like hands?
When government officials and “men of God” alike
Are corrupted by greed and power?
The poor?  The children?
Where is justice now?
Cuidado nena, little one,
This kaleidoscope of bright color quickly turns dark.
Don’t give up hope, justice will come for you, and
Hopefully your hungry eyes will see that day.
Hopefully your dirty, doll-like hands will grasp tonight
And never let go.
Hopefully brightness fills your kaleidoscope future.
Hope.  Fully.

– Jenn Leaman