Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Write This to Report...

I am now standing, with others, in
Acteal, Mexico, at the very place where,
on December 22, 1997, paramilitaries
massacred forty-five Christian pacifists,
thirty-six of them women and children, while
they worshipped, fasted, and prayed.

A soft wind curls around the coffee
and banana trees. Rain falls like the
tears of the bereaved, hesitating only a
second on the steep earth before
racing, as if in fear, toward the
sea. No birds sing.

Quietly we stand in the memorial
building, constructed on the graves of
the victims, gazing at photos of the
people who died. Their clear eyes return
our stare, awaiting an answer to the
unspoken question.

Soon night will cover this mountain
town, but nothing in this life will
cover the grief felt for the loss of Rosa
Vasquez Luna, Catarina Luna Perez,
Josefa Vazquez Perez, Maria Gomez
Perez, Margareta Mendez Paciencia,
and forty others who died that day.

While shadows of death brush our shoulders,
we circle and kneel, blowing gently on the
glowing embers of peace, watching,
as the flame begins to rise.

Published in March/April, 2002 issue of
"Fellowship Magazine," and in the 2003
book "Poets Against the War."

Dawson, New Mexico

From Route 64 South of Raton
I go west toward the crimson
Sangre de Cristo range.
Weeds like fingernails scrape
my VW's bottom while the tires
trace tiny strips of pavement.

Here the remains of Dawson die
another untimely death.
Abandoned since the 1950's when
natural gas replaced coal, the
mines are quiet, no longer an
origin of heat and light.

Stiff from the long drive,
I slip off the seat and
the coal sand grits its teeth
beneath my feet. I glance
both ways, alert for reptiles
and snoopers like myself, and

sneak past the "trespassers
will be prosecuted" sign. Pale
as the crosses in the cemetery,
it names some distant owner as
possessor of this noble past.
Like icons to ancient gods,

two smokestacks cast
their shadows on the dry earth,
and silence rings through
the lean streets of this ghost
town where concrete steps stagger
beside foundations whose

houses were removed when their owners
left. The only discord comes from
me, lone intruder into history. A
suspicious wind slips across the
mesa to the cemetery where the last
names remain: Silvino, Ybarro,

Zaccayinno, and more. Shrines without
graves for 383 men who died in mine
disasters. Their ashen memorials erode
like memories, while snakes shed their
skins and deer their antlers far above
the veins where men and coal mix.

Published in the 1993 "cold - drill."

The Spotted Stone (a prose poem)

On the edge of a small grove of juniper trees at the northern boundary of the Great Basin you will find the Spotted Stone. About the size of the one that sealed the tomb, it stands vertical, like a sentinel guarding the grove. The Spotted Stone is the color of granite with fine veins that shine in the moonlight like lines of cold unblinking fire. The spots are large, white, and number half a dozen. They stare like glaucomic eyes toward the cumulus clouds congealing on the horizon.
The raven has traveled far and is fatigued, but his spirit rises when he spies the stone. Silently he drops toward it, breaks with spread wings and wedge-shaped tail, and alights on its solid berm. Pausing a minute, he surveys the convoluted terrain, then dips his heavy bill deep into the largest spot on the stone. Suddenly, with renewed energy, the ebony bird accelerates upward, vanishing into the cloud cover. A drop of blood, the size of a cherry clings to the tip of his lower mandible.

Published in the December, 1999 issue of Mennonite Life.

Wallpaper Postcards

Nervous ocean clashes with blissful
heavens, tacked diagonally to the dark
wood wall. Stick people withered by
sun stand dazed between sea and sky.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, July 5, 1958.

Twin rows of shimmering white teeth
in faces black as a Bible's cover.
Small boys picking berries.
Birmingham, Alabama, August 21, 1961

Lonely, arthritic blades on tottering
legs creak in the unrelenting wind.
on all sides, empty space.
Sunray, Texas, December 1, 1967

Gray box on wheels: one horsepower.
Striding out of the last century and
into the next. Amish family. Bird-in-
Hand, Pennsylvania, April 12, 1990

Turbulent, ghost-like it rises, ashen
against an indigo sky. Old Faithful,
Yellowstone, September 16, 1992

Originally published in the 1994
"cold drill," a literary publication
of Boise Stae University.

Please note that, unless otherwise indicated, all the poetry, prose, and photographs on this blog are the creative property of Leonard Nolt and may not be reprinted or republished in any form without permission.