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Snapshot

By
September 1, 2009

 

_El Salvador, 2008_

A poet in a busload of poets,
I write the name of the town
the tour guide offers: Aguacayo.
Travel books give it brief mention,

alongside Guazapa, the sleeping
volcano we drive up to get here,
past holes in its side guerillas gouged
to shoot from, past a bookshop

guarded by a man with a machine
gun, small shacks of cinderblocks,
shells of buildings grown through
with weeds. “The army never gained

control of it,” the guide grins.
There is the talk of friends, uncles
disappeared, impossible to translate
because in English one disappears,

is not disappeared. This morning
we climbed a pyramid, a heap
of stone and scrub, dedicated
to the Great Flayed One, where

enemies’ skins were worn inside
out after sacrifice. We take turns
snapping photos of each other
at the top, then on to Sochitoto,

where we find a postcard heart,
huge and veined, jutting up
as a church spire. In the park
I shoot a shrine: the tail

of a helicopter brought down
by snipers, its missile fixed
below it, prey in a taloned claw,
always about to, but still not

dropping it over this pristine,
colonial town, where kids giggle
at dogs fucking, locked together
as they strain to come unstuck,

while a thin girl swings a Kermit
the Frog doll. Here in Aguacayo,
no town, no tourists, just a few men
leaning in thresholds and us poets,

scribbling notes. Ivy outside
of what was a church refuses
to root inside, three decades
after a bomb flattened all

who took shelter. Only the floor,
bits of wall, remain, the elevation
of what must have been the altar.
A camera flashes in the ash

of twilight. The men look up
from their card game, the deck
thick with dust. I turn away
to stop them from watching me

watch them, framed by debris,
and look back at my daughter
who tries to walk through the ruins,
but wobbles, plops—not quite grown

enough to balance. She bends
forward, pats the ground
with her palms, taps her dirt-
covered fingers to her tongue.

 

AndyYoungPhoto.jpg**Andy Young** is the co-editor of _Meena Magazine_, a bilingual Arabic-English literary journal, and teaches creative writing at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Her work has recently appeared in _Callaloo_ and will be featured in _Best New Poets of 2009_.

 

**Poet’s Recommendations:**

North: Poems by Seamus Heaney

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved: Selected Poems by Nazim Hikmet

Collected Poems by Robert Hayden

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