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Poster by Mauricio Rosales



The people, young and old, gather outside the Cathedral to affirm the dignity of man. But the soldiers who have taken their positions receive the inevitable order and fire. The people rush to the Cathedral doors only to find them closed by secret government decree. Juan, Pablo, Pedro, Cecilio, and Mario are among the soldiers. They fire until they run out of bullets and the red puddle forms, on which flies swarm and the sun reflects, at the bottom of the Cathedral steps. After that, the soldiers return to their barracks. At first, they go about their duties. But then it starts. Juan goes to drink water, and the tears of the murdered come out of the faucet instead. Pablo goes to his bunk and covers himself with sheets that turn into the skin of the slain. Pedro turns on a light and sees that each bulb is an eye from the massacred. Cecilio takes off his boots and walks barefoot on tiles that turn into the bones of the executed. Mario sits down to eat his rice and beans, but the dish is filled with the hair and fingernails of the butchered. Horrified, they run out into the courtyard and stare at one another. They watch as Juan grows long hair and becomes the pregnant Marta, who had her unborn child cut out, as Pablo grows into Isabel, who was beheaded before her family, as Pedro grows four inches and becomes Noel, whose body was never found, as Cecilio shrinks into Miguelito, the first grader, who can only be identified by his teeth, as Mario grows bald and becomes Ernesto, the Wise, whose torture lasted three, unheard of days. Then all of the soldiers, in all of the barracks of the nation, one by one, turn into those whom they have killed, the glow of recognition visible in their eyes, in their fingers a warmth, in their throats previously unutterable words crawling toward the living breath: "Justice does not wear a hood, Truth is the enemy of torture. Death must serve Life. Forgive us, for we knew not what we did."


Mauricio Rosales was born in El Salvador and has published literary translations in Mundus Artium: Journal of International Literature and the Arts (University of Texas, Vol. XV, 1985) and in Borges, the Poet (University of Arkansas Press, 1986). His poetry and fiction will appear this year in Wordstorms, The Bi-lingual Review: La Revista Bilingue and Kimera.


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