Ferias II (detail) by Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo Mixed media drawing on mylar
I gave up a whole country and you keep asking for more
Tía Tere as Cipactli Tlaltecuhtli:
A Gang Rape in Six Parts
Where El Pueblo Points Their Thousand Fingers at La Niña Tere
We did what every pueblo did when soldiers came asking for our children. We hid inside barrels of beans and slept on rooftops. We called the names of our gods and our country hollered back. They found us at school, reciting the national anthem. They found us selling conchas a cora on the streets. They found us between bedsheets, nude as newlyweds, asking for names. And if they gave us the choice between their enemy and our head, we did what every pueblo did. We gave them puta ó pobre. We saved ourselves.
Where Tía Tere Knocks Out the First Conquistador and All Else is Unimaginable
Spilling colónes on the street is the closest we will get to smearing dirt all over
Cristóbal Colón’s gilded face. So, when soldiers tear the purse from her arm and bills rip ragged
as flags from its slapped mouth, burying coin and conquistador in shit and mud, we can call it
resistance, a victory for the little hand that spun and struck midnight raw against the jaws of soldiers.
Tía Tere’s wrists were younger then, stronger than they are now, puffy and punctured. She caught
the first soldier in the nose and broke red yolk down his rugged grimace. Before he raped her, she forced him
to weep a boy’s tears. If he survived the war, then he still walks today with the nose the devil gave him.
Best believe she would have merked him before the gun buckled her neck and for hours she blinked back black.
Love Letter from Tía Tere to a Boy Soldier
n the months dogs dig their dry noses through trash in search of water, you were the boy who left out tins for the strays to lap,
a chicken bone for muzzles to startle and snap. Papi threatened to beat us if we stole the fruit that fell from your father’s terreno
into our yard. I hid the mangos you gave me in my shirt and only got caught once. Later, we shared the bruised seed, our white uniforms
half-translucent in the summer sweat, the pulp, bright and yellow, stuck thirsty on our lips. I never repaid you for your kindness.
He had your face,
The man with the fat nose who dug through me like trash.
Here are my kindnesses in return:
I fucked up his mug, gave him a new nose and busted lip before he overtook me.
I told myself you went North instead of enlisting. You were the one I saw when I closed my eyes.
Where Tía Tere Faces the Judge
If bullet wounds had tongues to testify, ¿would the judges
believe us then? If the vagina could speak and write its darkest
name in blood, if she could count the soldiers and their barrels,
¿would my pain be legitimate?
I gave up water and let my voice evaporate in the Chihuahuan desert.
I gave up a language—even the words amor y luz --and now my teeth cut my lips like rakes.
I gave up a good mother who worked like an ass, a father who starved to feed his children.
I gave up my body and let its most tender parts crack to pieces like a clam full of dirt.
I gave up a whole country and you keep asking for more.
Your honor, dile al presidente, the officials of ICE, the alt-right, and this nation’s countless slaves: I am here to court each of you.
I brought you all the arm of a child, plucked from the earth the way some pick a daisy. I apologize for its lack of fingers.
You already know how these games go. He lives, he lives not. Are your men astute enough to tell me when it’s from:
¿our old war or yesterday’s tiraera? They all look the same. If it’s not el ejercito, it’s la policia. If it’s not a landmine,
it’s a mara. ¿Which are you? If you want to play Pantokrator, por favor, please judge me.
In the Last Judgement, we will all be sent to El Salvador to reap our eternal redress.
In the Last Judgement, you will be forced to face the insurrection of our dead.
Prayer to Cipactli Tlaltecuhtli
Tía says so many men went over her she lost count.
They all blurred into one— the soldiers y conquistadores the judges y el pueblo the police y las maras the boys who once offered her the ripe heart of a mango.
You were the goddess men tore in two and claimed they created the earth, as if la selva isn’t the nap of your kitchen, as if Izalco y Ilamatepec blossom from somewhere other than your bosom.
We call you the world monster—la mujer, la guerrillera, who survived a gang rape of gods and gave us your queendom, bloody belly and slaughtered womb. ¿Are you not madre y martyr of our Americas, splintered at the isthmus, legs thrashing
against every chain and stitch? ¿Are we not all the children of a woman torn at the border? You burst from the pin of a guerrillera’s grenade as an angel. You flapped your wings and the leaves of the trees fluttered
in flames and spoke--
Mija, soy la mera, mera, Santa Salvador. Mira las heridas sobre mi cuerpo, las bocas que gritan en cada rótula, el rio sangriento de mi pelo que llena mares con su furia. Sos mi hija-guerra, nene, carne de mi carne, la rosa de mis moretones. Entiendes ahora porque mis bocas siempre ansían por la sangre. He perdido tanto de la mía. Pero no vas a morir aquí, ahorita, mija, yo te concederá la vida.
and the men were blinded by your light, made deaf by the roar of your rifles
and the men hid behind your trees which fell like hands clapping flies
and guerrilleros ambushed the camp as the colonel selfishly begged Tía for life
and the men lost their arms in the scuttle and finally prayed to mothers they never loved
and the men lost their legs in the scuttle and finally knelt humiliated before their Maker
and her thighs were still mud-slapped, bleeding to her knees as she led him through her homeland, the dark arch
and dip of your chest, where once she nursed from your honey and felt her bones harden with your marrow
and where then you gave her the strength to save a man who didn’t deserve your blood.
Prayer to Tía Tere
When I call you Cipactli Tlaltecuhtli I mean this:
You gave us a world, torn limb by limb, rich with your sacrifice. You gave birth to the poet and the thug, to men who never knew your power. If you let us live, it is by the grit of your grace. If we betray your love, then we do not deserve your mercy.
Editor’s Note: This poem is about a woman’s abduction and torture in El Salvador in 1979.
Photo by Danielle Hernandez
Willy Palomo, the son of immigrant parents from El Salvador who now lives in Cedar City, Utah, is a McNair Scholar, Macondista, and a Frost Place Latin@ Scholar. He has performed his poetry at the National Poetry Slam, CUPSI, and V Festival Internacional de Poesía Amada Libertad in El Salvador. Other works have appeared in Best New Poets 2018, Latino Rebels, Muzzle, and The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States. His first collection of poetry is due out in 2020 by Black Lawrence Press. Follow him @palomopoemas and www.palomopoemas.com.
Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo immigrated to Canada from El Salvador at age 11. A graduate of The Ontario College of Art and Design, he earned an MFA degree at Concordia University in 2008. He has exhibited widely and received numerous awards. He lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. For a closer look at his works, visit https://www.osvaldoramirezcastillo.com/.