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they’re outdated to the jury, robbed 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.

Copyright © 2017 William Archila. Used with permission of the author. “El Mozote” originally appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, No. 14, 2017.