Soldado Hermano

One of the Quakers at Meeting on Sunday told of a Liberian child soldier that he met that is now doing peacemaking in American schools. I started thinking of when I was volunteering at the Detroit Windsor Refugee Coalition, and one of the refugees couldn’t sleep and talked to me all night. I am not much for poetry, but this is how the journal entry came out.

Soldado Hermano-Brother Soldier



I saw your face again today

a different world

a different time

far flung into the future

from when I first saw you


You walked at times with a military cadence

as if you were still a soldier

conscripted from your school bus

on your fourteenth birthday


You escaped when your battalion

El Atlacatl was clearing and burning a path

north to Honduras

you ran before the flames

a shadow, hidden in smoke

maybe your comrades thought

you disappeared in the fire

but you melted into

the Morazon hills.


How you made it to Canada’s border

you didn’t tell

but in fits and starts you

confessed to what was required

of the black-shaded soldiers

of las fuerzas armadas salvadoreñas


I closed my yellow pad and stopped writing

There would be no asylum application now

but you couldn’t stop talking

the picnic table was our confessional booth

the back porch our church

at some point when the lights on the Ambassador Bridge to Canada were replaced by Detroit’s slate gray predawn sky

I fell asleep


in the morning you were gone

and I prayed that you would be

free and transparent

light as a bird.



I saw you tonight.

this time you were a polite American teenager listening to music with his father

at a park in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

you said excuse me when you passed by


I saw your eyes again

your face,

your bones

there were no shadows

no ghosts

no murdered friends


You were as I dreamed you

prayed you

hold you still.




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