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Waging Peace

Renny Golden: Guatemala, Nunca Mas

I am the most gigantic of the dead who will never close his eyes until I see you saved. 

Julia de Burgos


The Bishop speaks into a blind wind

that stabs its knife bone deep. 

Here in the altiplano he hears Mayan children,

ghosts singing in the rocks.

What is a shepherd?  he asks the dead.

He knows one thing: seminary answers

are parrots repeating a parrot’s gospel.

The Bishop pulls back, the way a blown flower

rises up from the hands of wind. 

What is a shepherd here in El Quiche,

he asks no one, measuring the month’s

murders on a scale that can’t add straight

because the padrones fixed the weights

to cheat peasants of the $2.00

a day wages, which is what this war

is all about.  Campesinos, catechists

butchered like lambs, exactly like lambs.


As if it were a condemned building, Juan Gerardi

closes the diocese of El Quiche because the church

he believed would protect them is marked, quemada.

A shepherd whose hands are ruby stained,

Juan Gerardi cannot tell the nuncio or bishops

who sip sherry that it is all blood to him.


Alone, he seeks the people,

wants to match their beauty,

wants green pastures without

cavities of corpses.


After the dead covered the highlands

with a tattoo of Mayan bones,

long after Bishop Gerardi can do

anything more than cry, repeating

let me stay with you, my suffering friend,

long after that, the Guatemalan earth with


its braid of jade stalks, answers back, opening

like a body to tell of the Maya in the 1980s:

the moist sack of earth with its trove of bones.


Dig here, the Bishop says, dig here.

The terrible witness of ribs, bashed skulls,

tiny femurs and the frail wings of shoulder blades

speak of the Kabiles.


In the nineties, like a rain seen across a field,

survivors come down from the mountains to testify

because a Bishop who thought he was useless asked,

a Bishop who gives back to them their words,

a terrible witness of fire in a book that opened

the last door of the blackened house.

It is a book written by peasants whose

words tear open windows in the sealed walls.

This path, the Bishop says, is full of risks. 

His last. 


A Bishop is silenced but a door, made of words,

is flung wide. The banner above the cathedral door

is a flag the peasants wave over and over:

No Muriera La Verdad


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