They were sleeping.
Children overlapping in their cots.
Christo and Teresa like small spoons against the wall.
The night was hot, no wind blew the leaves outside.
She dreamt of mending Tonito’s pants
before his first communion.
The thread was blue and smooth,
The hole disappeared under the needle.
She woke up when Leon started crying.
A soldier lifted Alberto by his foot.
Leon reached up for his baby brother,
his hand catching Alberto’s fist.
She ran forward for her sons
as the soldier hit Leon on the head with his gun.
Leon fell, skin slapping the floor.
Alberto dangled in front of the soldier’s wide grin.
“Mi Hijo! Mi Hijo!” she cried,
Christo cried, the five boys wept on their cots.
They did nothing.
She prayed that the soldier would not drop him onto the cement.
She prayed his body would not be crushed.
Teresa begged the soldier to take her.
Christo promised them anything.
The grinning soldier put Alberto into the arms of another
who wrapped him in a green blanket.
He opened his terrible mouth. “Don’t worry.
This one will have a better life than any of you.”
He winked at her and said, “Don’t forget.”
Christo threw his body at the soldiers,
but they knocked him down.
The knocked his teeth out with their rifles.
They drove away in their green jeep.
All up and down the street, candles had been lit.
The jungle was filled with whispers.
From Swimming in El Rio Sumpul by Elsie B.C. Rivas Gomez ’01 (Finishing Line Press, 2005, $14). The chapbook was nominated for the 2005 Pushcart Prize. Born in El Salvador, Gomez was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and returned to her birthplace through an SCU immersion trip. She says the poems in this book came out of that experience. Gomez earned a B.A. in English and B.S. in psychology from SCU and an M.F.A. in creative writing from San Diego State University.