How to Ride a Train in the Andes

Runner Up: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest


In a coastal sweatland shanty town, I vowed
to clamber onto the corrugated steel
roof of a train car, to throw my life

up first like a knapsack, charcoal-cleanse
my nose, my lungs, my pores— be delivered
aching, for twelve-hours up a shifty seam

of steel my Abuelito laid
the one who carried the train on his back
Hold my breath, stay low, remember

to not drink chicha on the roof with the local boys
not to lose my head, or turn my back
on the tunnel like bisabuelo did. Hold tight

until the train stops just past Devil’s Nose
in a tiny Andes town, overlooked
by wooden window balconies

steel-sliced cobblestone kingdom
bearing a cordillera crown. Here
I let my fingers stroke the velvet mountain’s cloak

and from the furrows of the knitted fields
I see my Abuelita come running
the one waiting for the whistle

tired of air-kissing the cheek of fate
watch her smudge coal off her brow
watch her tuck family secrets down her blouse

purchase a ticket to another life
The first man who crosses my path
she vowed: con ése me largo.

Lupita Eyde-Tucker writes and translates poetry in English and Spanish. She’s the winner of the 2019 Betty Gabehart Prize for Poetry, and her poems appear in Nashville Review, SWWIM, The Florida Review, Asymptote, Columbia Journal, Raleigh Review, and are forthcoming in The Arkansas International, Chautauqua, Yemassee, and Waccamaw. She’s currently translating two collections of poetry by Venezuelan poet Oriette D’Angelo. Lupita and her husband live and homeschool their children in Florida. Read more of her poems at: