Curvaradó, Chocó, Colombia
for Orlando Valencia, October 2005
The morning after her father’s
body was identified, Leidy
awoke and asked for rice,
a fried plantain. There was
no oil for frying. Chewing
her rice, she pushed away
her brother’s swinging foot,
swatted at gnats, pressed
against her mother’s silent bulk.
Next she would ask for cheese,
a square of salty white quesito,
He had raged
against the killings, desecration
of land with canals, plantations,
false titles. His eyes flamed, words
burned, he was a torch.
Police stopped him on the way
to an election; when they released him,
The river seemed relieved
to give him up: he surfaced near
Chigorodó, a bloated mass, facedown,
nudging a canoe as if knocking
absently at a door. He was hauled
ashore, wrapped gingerly in plastic.
They took fingerprints, sent for his wife
to view the face marred by blows
and decomposing, the puckered forehead
bullet hole—she glanced,
shuddered, nodded, turned away.
by the breakfast fire and stretched.
She would ask to swim, she decided,
and then she’d ask for a stalk
of cane. She was big enough
to peel one with quick machete strokes.
She would string wants
across this damp, unnaturally quiet day,
she would take aim with words,
she would keep asking.