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A white dove frozen
in flight
above these words engraved
in the plaza

In honor of the brothers & sisters
fallen because of the armed conflict,
hoping that this never happen again,
the people of Nebaj and its municipality
offer this monument as a symbol
of the new democratic cohabitation
and culture of peace,
firm and everlasting

Nebaj, Quiché, 29 diciembre 1996
“Day of the New Peace in Guatemala…”

This Saturday morning
            of bright sun
            of a clear sky
                  lightly touched with wispy clouds
      a village’s streets echo softly
            with the beating of a drum
                  the mournful voice of a reed horn

Through the doors of the white-washed church
      the men carry caskets
            atop their suit-jacketed shoulders
Red sashes stain their waists
The women’s red skirts
      hug their shuffling legs
Multicolored huipiles
      embrace their breasts, their hearts
Black hair ribbon-bound & wrapped
      atop their bowed heads

The boxes stack afront the altar
The music fills the nave
Armfuls of flowers are laid
      candles lit
Copal incense clouds within this sanctuary
      above the dead
It drifts towards the chapel
      of the 640 martyrs
            of this pueblo
The explosion of a rocket
      shakes the walls
            …& another

The priest reads the names of the
      46 hermanos massacred
            in an aldea near Nebaj
Rhythmic repetition of family names
Almost 16 years after their deaths
      the villagers pray for these 42
            exhumed from a clandestine grave
                  for the four who are still disappeared

They pray for forgiveness
      of their own fallings
            during those many years of violence
The falls hurting family
      hurting their community

They pray for healing

Hundreds of candles are held high
      to bring forth truth of those horrors
      to light the future with hope
            knowledge     reconciliation
Their strong flames flicker
      above the priest’s chanted prayers

Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 180 journals on six continents; and 12 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017) and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. Caputo has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia. She travels through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels at:

© 2020, Lorraine Caputo

One comment on “DENOUNCING THE VIOLENCE OF THE PAST, by Lorraine Caputo

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