50 years later, the lessons from Guatemala

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WEDDING 1978

WEDDING 1978

Copyright Joanne Light 2015


It was June and many bride-to-bees buzzing,
their dresses like flowers blooming,
bursting out of deep, dark dreams.

Rose madder bleeding hearts
and powder sky forget-me-nots—
the past and the future—were not invited.

She was not to be a bride then but three frocks
hung in her closet of mind:

From the past, Grandmother's Gibson ensemble—
gossamer cotton with embossed blossoms,
pressed in blue tissue, unseen for five decades.

From the future, two dresses to be worn while wandering—
Guatemalan and Grecian muse—
spin to white in a tale of long ago.

In July, she left, as he did too.
She did not want to spend a summer alone.
He found a monsoon in Japan. She found Guatemala in a lie.

She wandered with her dresses
against a backdrop of aqua lakes, chalky and shimmering,
guarded by soldiers with guns cocked.

She donned a dress pale like the Parthenon,
Her ideals with their muted colours
didn’t know Guatemala was weeping red.

She met Margarita, who swam naked without skirting the issues.
She would have been a social worker in another country.
There she was a marked target to die.

She, the gringa, will not die here.
Fortuna is her groom at this altar of godlessness.
She will sit by the Mayan shore with Caritas to protect her.

It’s Margarita’s tongue they will cut out,
a humanist slaughtered by the CIA.
Who will ‘a dress’ this?

Weddings go on here,
but brides and grooms go missing.
It is a secret ceremony, this marriage with the dark.

She is no witness.
She trades in oblivion and seeks men.
She is the turista, deaf to the snatching and hacking,

the mute dreamer who wakes up to scream,
“What is that strange fire I smell in your eyes, Margarita?”
In her dress of Apollonian privilege she doesn’t understand.

While ascending the ruins of her psyche,
the fate of a nation is stitched,
unseen, in every seam.

The second dress is a skirt of flamingoes with a coral blouse,
—always a new outfit to attract—
into the traveling hope chest she takes to elope with the world.

At the equator she is a bird of paradise, bursting with exotic bloom, wanting to fly.
Through the jungle she wanders and drips.
Green mounds of temples, covered with thousands of years

have forgotten their blood and their screams.
No one knows.
Only the monkeys are free to screech.

The blouse has long sleeves like wings.
She flies them into walls of strangers approaching.
Relief is nothing but a new day.

It all feels real and is colourful.
even the tears that drop and the fever that rages.
She could die here and no one would know.

That is what happened to hundreds of thousands.


She does not know if Marguerita lived to know love,
who had already loved her country so well.
The CIA, its love for who knows what

smoothed over the cuts in the cloth;
the holes with dead citizens disappeared—
but the lace of their loss remains,

wafting in the windows of all the brides
who never were, and all the grooms
who never did lift the veil to see the light.

Joanne Light more than 1 year ago

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