Organised alphabetically from A-Z, The Alphabets of Latin America, a collection of poems written by poet-diplomat Abhay K during his travels across Latin America between 2016-2019, is a diverse journey through one of the most culturally and geographically fascinating continents, known for its legendary Maya and Inca civilisations, sizzling Samba and Tango, the world’s biggest carnivals, labyrinths of Borges, the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great poetry of Ruben Dario, Pablo Neruda , Gabriela Mistral, Cesare Vallejo, and Octavio Paz, the fascinating art of Frida Kahlo and Fernando Botero, among others. A selection from the 108 poems in the volume.


I am here
amidst this immensity
of the cold desert,
shadows leaping out
windmills inviting
new Don Quixotes
hills rolling out and curved
supple breasts of the desert
Sun shining ever bright
in silence
not a single animal or bird,
nothing like Earth

in the vastness of the desert
the road merely a line
snowcapped Andes
sibylline as ever

at dawn
the moon hanging
from the sky
like a sickle
stars still bright
on my way to Lagunas altiplánicos

little hills along the Andes
like camelids’ humpbacks
lights them up in soft pink

an inverted pyramid
of light, air, sky, clouds
in the Laguna Miniques
on its bleached shores
of salt
Kutz birds’ nest.


“I know of one Greek labyrinth which is a single straight line.
Along that line so many philosophers have lost themselves [...].”

— Jorge Luis Borges, "Death and the Compass"

Looking for Borges
I came to Argentina
I found him nowhere

I searched all the libraries and cafes
all the labyrinthine streets of Buenos Aires
he was not even at La Recoleta

I found merely a mirror
and a face staring
at me in disbelief

it’s hard to believe
everyone told me
Borges lived in Argentina.


I asked a bartender in Brasilia for a drink
she said nothing, just offered me a caipirinha

I drank it happily and asked – what is it?
She said – Brazil is body, caipirinha – its soul

Drink whiskey when in Scotland, rum in
the Caribbean, when in Brazil drink caipirinha

Curious, I asked – how is this magic potion made?
Her face blossomed like a sunflower, and she said –

pour cachaca of your choice, squeeze – a lemon,
mix it with crushed sugar and ice. “And love?”

She smiled, put a gentle kiss on my cheeks and
said – a great drink must have in it – love distilled.

Prufrock at the Carnival in Rio

Let’s go then to Rio, to the Carnival
when drums are beating like heartbeats
of lovers meeting after a long interval
and Samba dancers are out in the streets
Let’s go and catch a flight to Rio
Flights full of revelers that take off at night
Oh, do not say no
Let’s go to Rio

In the Sambadrome dancers come and go
showing off their torso

The colourful floats roll on and on
The colourful marchers sing passionate songs
mesmerized revelers bite their tongues
and shout in drunken madness
swaying back and forth like sea waves
under the full moon February night

There will be time
for the Samba dancers
to move their hips back and forth
there will be time, there will be time
to dance in full glory under the moon
there will be time to steal hearts
moving hands and feet
time for this, time for that
and time yet for a hundred others
before the long night is finally over

In the Sambadrome dancers come and go
showing off their torso

And indeed there will come a moment to ponder
Should I descend the stairs
and join the Samba dancers
with other drunken revelers?
(They will say: what a sport!)
I wear a khaki-colored linen coat, over a white shirt –
linen trousers, the color of dirt
(They will say: how does he dress so smart!)
Should I descend the stairs
and join the carnival?
Eternity hides in a moment
I wait for that moment’s arrival

For I have known that such a moment exists
have known that such a moment comes once in ages
and I have waited for it so long
and I know it is coming, it will come
with the music, light and colors of the Carnival
so should I not wait a little more?

And I have seen the world
London, Paris, Amsterdam
New York, Shanghai, Durban
and many other wonders
so where should I end
my journey of years and years
so how should I end?
And I have known other pleasures, known them all
pleasures that belong to grown-up men and women
but Rio Carnival is transcendental, beyond all
Is it the beating of drums
or the bare samba dancers
that make me scream
and then should I assume
this is it?

Shall I say, I have seen all the Samba schools
and watched all the Samba queens
in the Sambadrome, on the top of exotic floats
I should have brought a pair of the best binoculars
to look at these unforgettable, splendid sights

And the night is fully awake filled with joyous screams
People swaying, twirling in Camarote
with pouring music, songs beside you and me
Would I after copious drinks and sumptuous dinner
have the strength to leap into the crowd?
But though I have reveled and feasted, reveled and flirted
Though I have seen Samba dancers wearing nothing but paint
riding the floats, performing gymnastic feats
I am no saint – and here is nothing to regret
I have seen this moment of my life etching itself into eternity
and I have seen a drop of water contain an ocean
and I can say it with certainty.

And has it been worth it, after all
After the long wait, crowds, and a night of jostling
among the common men and women in Sambadrome

Has it been worthwhile
to have stood the whole night on my feet
to have left behind my only child
with someone I have hardly known

To say I am Krishna from the Dwapar age
I have come to see the Rasa lila in Rio

If one, joining the Carnival
should say: the Rasa lila is the Carnival of the modern age

And has it been worth it, after all
has it been worth it, after all
after the sea wind that strikes the windowpanes
after the walk over white sands
of Copacabana and Ipanema and so much more
and it is possible to say, this is it
this is it what I meant
it has been worth it after all
to walk over the white sand
to touch sea-waves with one’s feet
this is it, this is all

No, I am not Ram or Buddha, nor was meant to be
I am a flirtatious lord, one that will see
a samba queen dance, in her full spree
prod her to do even better
get electric, regal, stately
full of thunderous energy
at times slow and with a pause
but without a dull moment at all

I grow fonder and fonder of the Samba dance
I shall remain forever here in Rio given a chance

Shall I grow my hair and become a Carioca cutie?
Shall I go straight to the beach or return to duty?
I have heard Copacabana is full of beauties

I do not think they will look at me
I have seen them lying on the sand
wearing nothing but a book in their hand
lying on the beach between sea and land

We have reveled long in Rio
seen Samba girls in all shades of the rainbow
Shall we go then, shall we return home?

Machu Pichhu

What do the dancing stones
of Machu Picchu tell us—

when earthquakes or storms
threaten to turn us into dust

—dance and celebrate
no matter what comes our way,

those who dance, endure and stay
those who don’t, are blown away.


A beam of light
enters a dark alley—
spirit takes over body.

Excerpted with permission from The Alphabets of Latin America: A Carnival of Poems, Abhay K Bloomsbury.

Abhay K is the author of a memoir and eight poetry collections. He is the editor of CAPITALS: New Brazilian Poems and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian Poems. His poems have been published in over 60 literary journals across the world.