The decade the country became known throughout the world

William Archila
The ground cracked
like the rough pit of a peach
and snapped in two.
The sun behind the mountains
turned into an olive-green glow.

To niña Gloria this was home.
She continued to sell her bowl of lemons,
rubbing a cold, thin silver Christ
pocketed in her apron. Others 
like Lito and Marvin played 
soldiers in the ruins of a school,
running around mounds of bricks,
                   shooting chickens and pigs.

No one knows exactly how
a light film of ash appeared
on everyone’s eyelids
early in the morning
or how trout and mackerel plunged from the sky,
twitched, leaped through the streets.

Some say the skin of trees
felt like old newspaper, dry and yellow.
Others believe the soapsuds
washed aside in rivers
began to rise in their milk.

One Monday morning, a rain fell 
and the cemetery washed into the city.
Bones began to knock 
and knock at our doors.
Streets became muddy rivers
waiting for bodies to drop 
among piles of dead fish.

In a year, everyone stabbed flowers on a grave.

This explains why women thought 
and moved like lizards under stones,
why men heard bees buzzing inside their skulls,
why dogs lost their sense of smell
sniffing piles of rubble to get back home. 

In a few years, no one cared 
about turtles banging their heads against rocks,
bulls with their sad, busted eyes,
parrots that kept diving into creeks,
the dark swelling of the open ground
or at night a knife
stained the kitchen cloth.

Instead, niña Gloria swept the ground,
the broom licking her feet at each stroke.

At the bus station, Marvin shined 
military boots, 
twenty-five cents a pair,
reduced his words to a spit, a splutter 
of broken sentences 
on shoe polish, leather.

In the evenings, he counted coins 
he’d tossed in a jar, then walked home,
one step closer to the cracked bone
clenched in the yellow jaw of a dog.

More by William Archila

Bury This Pig

Behind the cornfield, we scaled the mountainside
            looking for a foothold among the crags,

rooting out weeds, trampling on trash,
            the trek as if it were a holy crusade:

bodies armored, mounted on horses,
            banners fluttering in the air.

Then one morning, we stumbled upon the thing,
            dead, cramped in a ditch, covered in ants,

trotters grimy, a purple snout of flies
            and not a dollop of blood,

but a thick piece of hide, cradling
            about fifty pounds of hog.

Someone said, "Kush! Kush!"
            as if to awaken the thing.

I thought about the carcass, blood-slick,
            staggering into the room,

grumbling and drowning as if deep in the mud,
            eyes buckled in fear,

bones breaking down to the ground, open
            to the chop and tear of human hands:

pork and lard, forefeet, fatback cut into slabs,
            an organ fattened and butchered.

It continued for weeks, a few of us
            meeting in the afternoons

just to look at the steaming belly, maggots
            stealing the gray of the brain,

each time, one more barefoot boy
            probing the eye socket with a stick.

Some of us came back armed
            with picks and bars, shovels dusty in our hands,

 until the ground groaned with war.
            The sky fell and cracked the earth.

 How was I to know
            they would be hooked, hacked,

snouts smashed on the wall,
            their bodies corkscrews on the floor?

 How was I to know
            I would bury this pig, rock after rock?

Saturn’s Country

S for salt, for 
spoiling crops. S 
for worse or
no choice other 
than exodus or 
a territorial discourse.
S for stretched out
in a morgue, plastic 
bags like garbage 
you discard.  S 
for stinking hog, 
onions, frenetic 
maggots laying 
their baggage. S 
for still you're flesh, 
meat butchered, bootlegged
in the marketplace. S 
some might say
you're gas sloshed 
from a tank. Others 
that first blue 
God doused 
on a tarp, hated it
and left it to rot, or 
you’re that sound 
he loved so much, 
smaller than a 
cricket song.
S for scalp, for the soiled 
search of your god. S 
for complete 
utter darkness. S 
for success 
out of the carcass.
S for sloth, for 
sickle, for a solar system
beyond sable
incarceration. S 
for ES which is S
which is señor of a 
thousand choruses. 
S for savior, for
scavengers and sculptors
you throw out 
of the temple. S 
for so much white- 
noise pressure
even the cardinal 
won't canonize you.
No, not that bird, not 
that pontiff, nor your 
arsenal. S for still 
to this day in your
belly, in the dive 
of your mouth.

El Mozote

The photograph leads you to coarse lines 
crooked along weathered grains 
of a wooden tablet, probably painted

by a carpenter or wood cutter; 
loops around the bowl whitewashed –
the color of clarity. Anacleta, 
Amílcar, Macario. Characters branded 
for a monument of wood & rock.
The morning the deer roamed 
the thick of the woods, panels 
of the sky capsized; the stare innocent, 
the cut unclean. The bar, the stem, 
the height. Cayetano, Candelaria, 
Concepcion built like a house. 
The sacristy burned 

the way wood changes to fire. 
Out of rubble fire. Femurs 
afire. Like Milton's Late Massacre
they’re outdated to the jury, robbed 
of their own eyes, yet everything 
is archived in the clouds. Doroteo, 
Filomena, Facundo. Each name 
a chamber, a chapel, fragment of a line
like an off-rhyme or a shotgun blast. 

The only movement is the movement 
of the monument. The contour, 
the black metal. You turn the page

and the family rises. No arch, no thistle, 
the town remained denuded of its residents,
many years the very picture lost in the hills. 
Stunning, the number of shoes, 
tricycles mangled. The absence 
of the physical grace, the cadence 
of a well-tuned body. The bending 
& brushing. Insects, vessel-like roots 
reaching for foliage; Zoila, Clicerio, 
Olayo. Lines of a child. A minefield.