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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 skin

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.

You ask,

“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


                                      and again



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