Driving to El Salvador with Hector and Domingo

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."
Visit http://www.friendsjournal.org/

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

 

and

 

It belongs to the waitress

in brown polyester

and the men in checked shirts

 

In their eyes I see

Atlanta burning

 

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

and

I dream of a world

without nations

 

 

 

 

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