The colonial city held tens of thousands,
since vanished from records and plain sight.
Did they return to their forebears’ Africa,
finding it wondrous strange?
Did they withdraw, like a blessing scorned,
into Brazil’s embrace?
Whose ancestors, then, are they?
And how many would in these latter days
consent to a cheek swab’s revelation?
What facts equal los negros ¿dónde están?
Might this loss, too,
inform the tango’s lament?
J.D. Smith‘s fourth collection, The Killing Tree, was published in 2016, and he is currently working on two other collections. Smith lives in Washington, DC.
Photo of Buenos Aires by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos.