In the Atacama desert, astrologers search the heavens for answers to our intergalactic past, while 70 year old widows scavenge the same desert for the remains of their loved ones, murdered and buried by the Chilean dictator Pinochet.
Today is the day, she murmuers with her dented shovel in hand;
Mother earth, dry, dead, nevertheless “la esperanza dá muy fuerza.”
They begin at the first find and circle outward like vultures.
That desert wind, that howl that never ends, carries remains far.
The first find was his pointer finger, that spun curls in her mahogany hair.
A few meters away, a foot, still in his burgundy sock that she gave him for Navidad.
They found his teeth yesterday and placed four molars in plastic sacks.
She loved that smile, that face, those cheeks that she held and kissed at their last parting,
The excavation uncovers splintered bones and splintered memories. She sits down,
Its been a long day–25 years long. The mothers and widows of the desaparecidos are fewer now–
tired, or content with the idea that the remains were dumped offshore into the Pacific;
it seems the waters of Lethe could washaway their sorrows, but not hers.
Not the widow who camps under the desert stars and wonders,
Where these the summer consolations he saw that night? Was it this season?
On the ride from the concentration camp, did he have a moment
to wonder at the moon, and the stars after the solders threw him on the ground?
Where is he?, she asks the stars.
The stars wink, as if saying, “I know something you don’t know.”
The light is too bright to sleep underneath the stars she decided.
No rest tonight. No peace for her, here in the Atacama desert.
Astrologers say there is a zoo in the sky, she thinks it’s a prison–
cold and silent, full of lions, hydras, and men who claim to be gods.
She rubs her rosary beads. The southern cross dangles over head, over his head
forever and acts as his unmarked grave, she thinks. She hopes. She holds
the sun bleached photograph up to the light. In the photo he is winking.
Her lover disappeared that night after she kissed both cheeks, now fragments in plastic,
and whispered, te cuide mi amor, be careful, my love
as he strode out in the night. No rest that night, waiting by the phone.
No rest tonight either–the constellations remind her to much of the dig site:
small white pieces of bone, scattered here and there; the stars
remind her of the mass graves they will probably find tomorrow or next week–
The stars dwindle at dawn but they are still there, hidden in the daytime,
still watching her dig, walk, cry, pray in this howling desert.
Silent eyes watching, silent constellations spinning,
silent telescopes scanning the cosmos, and the widow,
silently flipping through la Bíblia Santa–1 Juan 2:17.
The human heart shouting into the wind–I’ll find you.