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About this poet

Virgil Suárez was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1962, and moved to the United States in 1974. He received his MFA in Creative Writing in 1987 from Louisiana State University. His books of poetry include: Guide to the Blue Tongue (University of Illinois Press, 2002); Banyan (2001), for which he won the Book Expo America/Latino Literature Hall of Fame Poetry Prize; In the Republic of Longing (1999); Garabato Poems (1999); and You Come Singing (1998). He is also a novelist, and has written about his experience as a Cuban refugee and a Cuban-American in his memoirs Infinite Refuge (Arte Público Press, 2002) and Spared Angola: Memories from a Cuban-American Childhood (1997). His work has been included in many anthologies, such as Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets (2002).

Suárez has achieved such distinctions as the Florida State Individual Artist Grant, a G. MacCarthur Poetry Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. He has served as a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Panelist in 2000 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Panel/Judge in 1999. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where he is an associate professor of creative writing at Florida State University, Tallahassee.

The Dirt Eaters

Virgil Suárez
Whenever we grew tired and bored of curb ball,
              of encircling the scorpions we found under rocks

by the mother-in-law tongue within a fiery circle
              of kerosene and watching as they stung themselves

to death, we ate dirt; soft, grainy, pretend chocolate
              dirt, in our fantasies sent to us by distant relatives

in El Norte. Fango. We stood in a circle, wet the dirt
              under our bare feet, worked with our fingers to crumble

the clogs with our nails, removed the undesired twigs,
              pebbles, and beetles. Dirt—how delicious. How filling.

We ate our share of it back then. Beto, the youngest, 
              warned us not to eat too much; it could make us sick,

vomit, give us the shits, or even worse, worms. 
              We laughed. We ridiculed him. We chanted

after him: "¡Lo que no mata, engorda!
              ¡Lo que no mata, engorda!"

What doesn’t kill you makes you fat, and stronger.

From 90 Miles: Selected and New Poems, © 2005 by Virgil Suárez. Reprinted with permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From 90 Miles: Selected and New Poems, © 2005 by Virgil Suárez. Reprinted with permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Virgil Suárez

Virgil Suárez

Virgil Suárez was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1962, and moved to