“Santiago Sanchez, 18 yrs. old, single, small farmer, from San Pedro Perulapan; captured on Oct. 6, 1980 at his home located at Canton Toluca, San Pedro Perulapan, Cuscatlan Province. He was captured by members of the Civil Defense, Canton Tejutla: participating in his capture was the commander of the Civil Defense Miguel Garcia. His capture is denied.”

—from the Report of the Legal Department of the Commission on Human Rights of El Salvador


The Eyes of the Assassin

Animals die
in their ordinary clothes,
abandon their families
to the claws and teeth of time.
In whatever place
time has tracked them to
they turn and look—

In the mirrored glasses
of the seasoned assassin
a farmer sees his boy playing soldier
carrying the gun borrowed
with promises
from a dying compañero.
A nursing student sees the baby
she delivered that morning
hungrily grasping at air with tiny hands,
tiny lungs.
A brickmason sees his wife
bending with a bundle of twigs to light
the fire for breakfast,
black hair hanging,
sudden flame.
A schoolteacher sees her old father
smoking, the spot of blood
in his handkerchief,
his wallet full of pictures of the dead.

People lie
like animals in shabby clothes
along the highways. In their eyes
the animal fear has glazed
and dried, and a further look
distracts them: a rapture of release
into the twilight and the weeds.