Poetry by Arnold Greenberg


Arnold Greenberg is an expat resident hailing from the USA writing a collection of poems about Bocas del Toro for his poetry book “The Forgotten Town–Bocas Poems.” Here are 3 poems he has composed recently that have much to do about what the Bocas Breeze is reporting this month. Enjoy!


The abandoned dogs,
the homeless dogs,
the hungry dogs
with their ribs revealed
roam the Bocas streets
sniffing butts
the way dogs do,
and all of them are mutts–
some small and brave,
some large with long thin tails
and hunter’s eyes,
and none know collars,
or have forgotten them
when their owners left town
years ago,
and it seems they like the gringos
who feed them and bring them water
when their tongues are hanging out,
and though it’s sad to see these dogs
— smart scavengers who know the streets like gangsters do–
and will never know a pampered life,
or cuddle in their owner’s bed;
these dogs sleep on the hot Bocas streets,
or in alleys next to trash and puddles,
and live their primal lives in packs,
or are loners, vagabonds, beggars
going where their paws and noses
take them,
surviving on the streets
in heat and rain, brave spirits
so ignorant of love.



The waves, the perfect waves at Paunch come everyday and have
since long before anyone walked the shore
to watch them rise,
long before the surfers learned to ride their power like cowboys learned to ride wild horses.

The waves that come and always have don’t belong to anyone,
just like the land that people buy and sell and think they own,
the waves are free like air and clouds, just like the land that’s here to share with all the creatures here.

The waves, the perfect waves,
just like this jungled land are precious gifts that bring us pleasure and lets us live our lives with their beauty.
lets us have this time we’re given to build a home or rent a room so we can have this view
and say hello to neighbors or visitors
and say look what we have.

These waves, these perfect waves at Paunch
I’m told are rare and surfers come from everywhere to ride their crests,
to test their skill and stamina and know again the thrill of being there where
nothing matters but the chance to stand and ride their boards to shore.

But when I heard the news that greed had raised its ugly head to build a pier into these
precious waters and take away the magic of these waves,
outrage shouted no and people took a stand to say
these waves are ours
and not for sale.

It’s love that matters
and when I saw the crowd and read their signs of rage,
my breath rose up in me
like the waves, these perfect waves, I knew would win.


“Since I’m an Ellington, they named me Duke
for the famous man
my father heard on the radio.”

He leaned on his cane,
the one he said he’s had since he went blind at forty four.

“There was nothing they could do to save my eyes
and so I learned to wash my clothes,
cook my food,
make my bed and do the best I could to get around and here I am.”

And there we were
sitting on the yellow bench outside where I could see what he could not,
and I listened to his story,
his memory like a sunny day,
his tongue licking his smiling lips when he stopped to take a breath.

And I was glad to hear how he played shortstop and soccer and could run faster than anyone,
then delivered gas and diesel
for fifty cents an hour,
and how he loves to listen to music on the radio, playing drums
with clothes pins on his bed,
the bed he finds walking with his cane into the room with a dozen other beds.

For over an hour, almost two,
his voice alive with memories,
he laughed and told me
more and more,
and I asked questions wanting to go where he was taking me, and later walking home
past people riding bikes,
I thought about his Asilo life,
his eyes behind his silver glasses and wondered
what he saw at night
in his dreams.


The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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