This Is How I’ll Tell It When I Tell It to Our Children
The soldiers came around, kicking up dust, calling for women.
We saw that they were only boys, with guns like toys, and shook,
but they began to shout, and fall down, and get up,
laughing. They threw pebbles, flower petals, clods of dirt, pine
needles. When swung by their arms, small children shrieked
with pleasure. No old women lay like rumpled sacks around
our feet and the boy who came at them, fists
like hard apples, was hoisted high and let down easy. Little man.
No one kicked the dog with thick-soled boots larger
than her frantic jaws. The cows were innocent, of course,
placid in their pasture. No machetes.
It was beauty that waylaid the girls at the river, the shocking
beauty of the day, sun spilling down the red riverbank, flower
petals in their hair like crimson dragonflies, ribbons
at their breasts and necks, or rubies. It was beauty that stunned
them, that knocked their knees from beneath them, a sudden
hunger to taste everything. Years later, that once frail pale girl
will blush, still mute with pleasure, when he slaps her ample ass
and tells the story. After, the girls floated like brown branches,
arms and hair and legs spread wide and lifted
by the water.
The men, the boys, passed the time teaching each other dirty
words and how to cheat at cards. Like boys, they tossed
twigs, handfuls of dirt, chocolate bars and tangerines
someone’s mother mailed at Christmas. The men,
the boys, fell down laughing, and for days, you could find bits of torn
peel at the river, you could taste the sweetness on your lips. It was beauty
that stunned you. No. It was beauty that stunned you.