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first we choke

we cough and sneeze as poisonous air fills our lungs

in the streets we learn to hold our breaths as buses pass

then we suck

on lozenges and candies hoping to soothe our parched throats

we are tired of tepid, plastic water

then we spend a day with the Indians

we eat fruit

we laugh and barter

but for a few books and a few dollar bills

we see how far we are

from the earth

and soon the agua linda tastes sweet

like strawberries from the California valley

mtk, Quito, Ecuador, January 26, 1995