In El Ocotillo, Honduras
A parade descends from El Ocotillo
past a mother whose new baby sleeps
as she stirs a pot over a wood fire,
past the yard of Dona Elena,
who fled here after Mitch, past
the improvised gravesite where
bony cattle browse the trash,
past the unlikely schoolyard and
up to the dump. The parade-
ninos y abuelitas, young blank men
carrying machetes and bundles of hacked
branches, horse carts, and bruised
trucks laden from the dump-
all day the parade descends
from El Ocotillo and from the dump.
And all day it rises to each-
one laden trek, one braid
moving at the pace the sun allows,
pausing only when a caretta load
shifts or when breath fails
an old couple and, lined statues,
they let the parade slip past
for one beat, two beats,
and then resume their climb.
When it rains, the road swims
in red silt and years of trash.
The slow parade drags on like
gravity itself, sucking on carts,
on a thousand muddy legs.
When it rains in El Ocotillo,
the wind flutters the corrugated sheets
and large drops drum the tin roofs.
The rain batters the scarred horses
and washes broken shoes, flakes
of circuitry and wood veneer
and indiscernible bits of cloth
down the open ditches that catch
all and cover nothing. The rain
makes of the road a river
that leads upstream to the dump.
Today, the methane may not flare
among cattle and vultures and kids,
but it will hang over the shifting mounds,
more fetid and noxious than ever.
When it rains hard in El Ocotillo
and wind tears at the earth, the sky
lays hands upon mothers and small
silent children, and tired shacks sag
toward the bottom of all things.
Michael Lauchlan’s poems have appeared in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Cider Press, Tampa Review, The Cortland Review, and Innisfree, and have been anthologized by Wayne State University Press (Abandon Automobile) and Oxford Press (A Mind Apart). Lauchlan is an English teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and has volunteered in El Ocotillo, Honduras in 2009 and 2011.