In the mornings barefoot they crouched,

three and four together, drawing circles in the dust,

their mothers calling out:





Before masked men peered out car windows,

before the mosque crumbled stone by stone,

before a devil wind blistered their faces,

before little sister curled thin on her pallet,

they scratched symbols in the dust


They squatted, playing games,

until one day, stained forever

on the pavement of their daydreams,

they looked up from the dust,

suddenly hardened like prehistoric fawn,

and heard the wails of their mothers,





Before the comandante demanded too many pesos,

before they dragged father to the truck,

before the mudslide pushed the shanty down the hill,

before brother stepped in front of a bullet,

they danced together in the dust


Now they lean against the post office wall

waiting for El Capitan to switch on the ignition

They will sell you anything for hard currency

They will defeat you any way they can

They remember the outcries of their mothers





After the missile scattered concrete and glass,

after fever crawled into the village,

after their bellies became swollen and the flies bit,

after blood congealed on the cobblestones,

they whispered promises in the dust