Today a father showed me his son by lifting stone,
hand-sized rocks mostly but we moved boulders to.
He apologized for passing the weight to us
saying he piled the debris to keep dogs from eating
his child, mashed in the rubble of their home.
Breathing hard he forearmed sweat from his eyes,
pointed to a mummy-like face in the dark crevice.
As I kneeled, the driver sucked his teeth and left.
Notebook open, I wrote “dead three months,
prune dry skin ripped to skull, face of petrified agony.”
I’m only describing his decay not his life
We stood in the bright heat; translator and driver,
me and the father, heads bowed in silence.
I asked, “Tell me of your son, who was he?”
The father spoke through the translator, “His name
was Jean, he had a learning disorder, was slow and
always he was embarrassed that his younger brother
was smarter and took the lead but Jean loved to eat
rice and le gume. The day he died, his mom made
his favorite meal, I asked him why are you smiling,
he said today my belly will be full and…” he paused
to breathe “the earthquake hit.”
We stood in the bright heat staring at the face
of Jean, mouth open, who died screaming for help
knowing he grows louder in the echoing void of eternity
until he is pulled out, cleaned, blessed and given
by his father to the ancestors waiting in the Light.
The father begged neighbors for help since they knew
his son as a boy but they wanted money to dig.
“Even after death he his suffering,” he said and placed
stones back over the face of his child, who remains sealed
in the darkness of eyes clenched in prayers that can’t
reach him or the countless other souls thrashing
in the memory of the living, pleading for rescue
so loudly, the earthquake never ends .