Ashes to Guazapa
In memory of Leonel Gomez Vides, 1940-2009
Your cinerary box was light, but filled with you it weighed eight pounds.
Nevertheless we each wanted our turn carrying you up the mountain.
We passed the roofless chapel, the crater, the graves of the youngest,
the camping place, the secret paths, the impossible stone road.
We came upon the shivering trees where the magical foreign doctor
was said to dig out bullets with a pen knife and supply the children
with iron by dipping rusty nails in water. We came upon the past,
where the holes were dug, and if you dug there now you'd fill quite a sack
with bones. We don't stop to dig there. We carried your box
to another place, not as far as we would have liked, but far enough,
where we all had our pictures taken with you, and then your box
posed with your former truck, that will now belong to the priest
you saved from prison. The truck seemed to know what had happened.
We spent a long time piling stones around the trees, even the mayor
who was once a fighter himself in these hills piled stones.
Then with cupped hands we tossed your remains into a coppice of cedars.
You flew a little, your soft ash flew, settling on the stones under the trees.
A camouflage moth alighted on the tree where most of you fell, and there
your friend worked his machete until a cross appeared, and within it
a Christ of sap and grain. The moth then vanished into the jacaranda
and dragonflies arrived, hovering, then from nowhere butterflies
rained into the coppice, blue mariposas, as they sometimes do
into the roofless chapel, and as dragonflies whirred above us,
the camouflage moth held still with its wings open, and the mariposas
rose and fell until all was dust and wings--you in flight--leaving
a life without a day not given to others, leaving us, who stand
in your sunlit clearing of butterflies and ash.
poem by Carolyn Forché
H.O.W Journal (Helping Orphans Worldwide), Issue 6 Spring/Summer 2010