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