First Published in Friends Journal: April 2006
Associated Church Press Awards Award of Excellence: Friends Journal for “Driving to El Salvador with Hector and Domingo” by Lisa Sinnett, April.
“This monologue poem allows readers to immerse themselves in a landscape that is both familiar and foreign. The author speaks directly, without sentimentality,
leading us down the ‘two-lane highway’ where we all ‘speak their language and inherit the violence.’ The poem ends with hope, reflecting the hopes and dreams
of the Society of Friends."
January 17, 1992 Wheatley, Arkansas
Driving to El Salvador with Hector and Domingo
I never knew that I passed invisible in my own country
the double yellow lines of a two lane highway leading me
to perhaps a cup of coffee
sitting down with hands clutching
a shiny brown mug
blowing steam with pursed lips.
I smile at the waitress
dressed in brown polyester, mousy hair
“Hi my name is Susan” welcomes her name tag.
But she does not smile back.
I look across the linoleum counter
and see that I am surrounded
by an army of men, dressed in checked shirts, caps,
talking of distances traveled in their rumbling trucks
I no longer walk invisible
in my own country
I am not white anymore
I travel today with two men,
That God has dressed in brown skin,
and a soft lilting language
that stands in contrast to their violent past
of Spanish conquistadores
and guerillas and soldiers
of a long civil war.
I speak their language too, and
inherit the violence
it is within
It belongs to the waitress
in brown polyester
and the men in checked shirts
In their eyes I see
I hear them whistling Dixie.
But it’s not the song of a
bird skimming above a sun-baked field
or a young boy kicking up clods of dirt
bare feet sinking in fresh loam
It is the death march of men;
hooded men in white
I hear a drum pulsing loudly and
see a shadowy figure swinging from a tree.
The sweat is gathering on my palms.
I look up and see the waitress in the brown dress.
“your bill.” she says flatly
I feel a prickling on my neck of curious stares
I feel the drum beat more urgently now.
I put three dollars on the counter
and we leave quickly
I open the glass door, the night air
biting my flushed cheeks
I dream of a world