Author: Ruth Goring
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Ruth Goring grew up in a large, lively expat U.S. family in Colombia. She has now lived in the United States for many years, but retains
ties to her childhood home by codirecting Chicagoans for a Peaceful
Colombia, at www.chicagoans.net
. She works as a book editor at a major university press. Her collection, Yellow Doors
, was published by WordFarm in 2004. She has also been published in journals such as Out of Line
, Porcupine Literary Quarterly
, and Mars Hill Review
, and her poem "Vigil" won first place in the free verse category of the Illinois State Poetry Society's 2007 contest.
Apartadó, Colombia, 2004
There was the boy who was torched
for refusing to join the paramilitaries.
There was his tinto
in a white-owned town, there was
his dogged effort to finish high school,
there was no job.
There was his father’s flashing eye,
cross-country move to protect
his boy, there were the city gangs,
addicts, no job.
There was the pronouncement: No son
of mine will go with esos señores,
those gentlemen—with careful irony—
whether sidewalk hoodlums or squads
that perform social cleansing with
machetes and bullets. No job
too bloody, too brutal for them.
There was the return to Apartadó:
At least there are friends here, we’ll
keep your profile low. One week
later, the boy was tied to a tree,
doused with gasoline, lit.
There were no rescuing police
or soldiers. No employer to note
an unexplained absence the next day.
There was no prosecution;
all witnesses’ reports were lost.
There was a father in desperate,
perspiring search. There were children
drawn to the blaze on that hot night,
there were cries of the damned,
a young man undone, melting,
the smell of roasting human flesh,
smoke rising in an outraged pillar.
There were ashes on the wind for days,
gritty and restless like a father’s love.