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Thursday, December 15, 2011


by Nedjo Rogers


We are all Rufina Amaya
lone survivor of the massacre of December, 1981
in El Mozote, the haven where everyone had come
since Marcos Díaz the shopkeeper heard from his army officer friend
that in the impending military campaign this town would be spared.
We are all Rufina Amaya
hiding in a tree from which she can hear
the cries of the hundreds being dragged
away by soldiers to be butchered by machine gun or machete, and among them
her own four children, her son
screaming Mama, they've killed my sister and they're coming for me and later
a silence worse than the screams
except that afterwards most of us
will say nothing, will
turn quietly to our accepted ways.
We are all Rufina Amaya hearing
through the Voice of America
radio broadcast that rumours of a massacre
are unsubstantiated and merely
more propaganda spread by the enemy.
We are all Rufina Amaya, brought to Washington
under such intense pressure that she will recant
every truth she knows
for a time
except that most of us won't find our voice again
to continue steadfastly to name the terror
bearing witness against the silence of decades.
We are all Rufina Amaya
harbouring fragile truths of unbearable pain
but also unspeakable beauty, the beauty
of all that was but is no more
of all that may some day be reclaimed
except that few of us hold out hope
that in our lifetimes we will see our El Mozotes
rebuilt, inhabited once more
in a triumph of everyday courage.

December 11, 2011 was the 30th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador.  Nedjo Rogers read this poem at an event put on by the FMLN in his hometown of Victoria, Canada.