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Man Pulled From the Earth (El Salvador)
~ for Sergio Moreno
by Neil Aitken
How did they find your heartbeat
in so much silence?
Did they search the cracks in pavement tombs
after the earth finished sighing,
or was she still beating her breast in grief
when they broke through?
Did they find you sleeping, faint, or broken
beneath the weight of other people’s homes?
You speak of the long whispered rats
singing dirges in strange voices
all night they prayed with you, and for you
recited litanies, prepared your soul
for its last movement, broke the silence
into small pieces. They covered your eyes
when you did not wish to sleep
but longed to break free
a Lazarus in rags, smelling of death,
you came forth from the dark worlds
still speaking in tongues.
You did not remember your name, at first.
Such things were burdensome below,
too heavy for minds
preoccupied with breathing
choosing air over soil
filtering out dust with your lungs.
You concentrated on simple verbs
to be, to live, to go
into silence or into darkness.
It was a matter of maintaining the present tense
at all costs.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Press body into clay
to seal wounds.
Wait for some random ray of light
to find its way down
to feel warm again
for a moment.
When they pulled you from the earth
you did not speak.
Now, you ask hard questions
to an empty room,
wonder where your children lie,
how many times a man can return home alone
before the path becomes too worn,
what does the stone hear before it breaks.
“Is there a dream that does not end with the dreamer?”
You do not know, but your arms have grown heavy
from holding on, so you let go
watch your heart skim the torn earth
counting backwards through dreams
before you awake