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Gold-Plated Isthmus

CAS for Database

Emilie Mendoza

Ciudad de Panamá, Panama

Balboa Academy


Gold-Plated Isthmus

It’s all very devotional but in a faraway sense. I know the names

of the chains because I know the order in which to put them on.

Heaviest first, lightest last. I don’t particularly worship their meanings,

but I know them nonetheless. They are as familiar

as the rain this time of year and beating sun during the rest.

This rosary with pearls from this jeweler; this bracelet number 13

with the initials of a great-aunt; this scapular; this cabestrillo.

It all piles on. I can’t think in gold anymore.

I tried once to do it myself — place beads and twist the wire

to make my own halo of flowers. It slipped out of my hands.

I doubt I could ever forget being the little girl skipping along the brick

road of the first city under the lion’s fist. We line these streets ourselves,

in the chorus of drums and whistles. I know this much

as much as I know the order to wearing a pollera.

That will be enough, so long as I still see the Pacific horizon.


Embodying its dreamy title, “Gold-Plated Isthmus” reflects on the nuanced and unmatched feeling that home brings, whether thought of with affection or aversion. It is difficult to fully capture the culture and feel one’s hometown holds, but this poem seems to not only do it, but does so in a way that allows the captivating warmth to transcend the poem and touch the reader.


Emilie Mendoza is a writer from Panama who primarily writes poetry and flash fiction. Her work has been previously recognized by Synthesis Publications, Eunoia Review, and more. She is an incoming undergraduate student at Harvard University and excited to have her work in Polyphony Lit!

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