“The Agony of Omayra Sanchez”: In a Magazine
Her eyes are what I can’t forget.
Wherever I look, that girl watches.
No white left in her eyes, only a
blackness that invites the photograph.
The volcano erupted, and the man on
the radio said to stay inside.
A lahar swallowed the family’s house,
her father and aunt drowned inside.
Pinned between concrete walls
and caught in her aunt’s embrace,
the girl clings to a single wooden beam,
the roof below clings to her.
She’s up to her neck in muddy water
that bubbles on the surface.
Her hair is curly like mine.
I think she is pretty.
Her wrinkled hands, white like a dead
fish floating in a pond,
seem like they are beckoning.
She will be dead soon too.
I catch myself scratching my hands
to see if the flesh stays firm
or tears like carrion.
I can’t stand up.
The dog barks at a car in the driveway,
the storm door opens, and shuts.
This is our family portrait:
Mommy sits on a low
fold-up chair in the kitchen,
we’re perched on her lap.
Paula’s not looking, her finger
jammed in her mouth, Mommy
holds her leg tight.
A stuffed white lamb
flops in my hand.
I am waving.
Green and yellow linoleum,
a sequin-studded cat magnet
on the brown Frigidaire.
Yarn ribbons try to bind our curls,
Mommy had long hair back then.
In the corner, a smudged fingerprint.
You took that picture
on Paula’s second birthday, the date
printed in thin blue ink,
when we were four.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest
Matthew’s mother has sent him
out back to get a switch again.
He staggers to the trees
near the garage,
pulls a young branch,
picks off twigs and leaves,
stares at the slender whip.
He makes the long walk
down the driveway to the house,
feebly waves when he passes.
I wave back. I go inside.
If I can’t hear him scream,
does his whipping exist?
I play with paper dolls,
fold the tabs of two-dimensional
dresses over flat bodies.
Imagine the quiet.
I don’t see Matthew for the rest
of the day, or the next.
Through an open window, I hear
his mother banging pots on the stove.
Matthew brings out the garbage,
refuses a game of kickball that we play
until the streetlights shine.