[Editor's Note: On
the War on the Land
In Memory of Victor Jara
By Andrew Salkey
Should you ask me where I come from, I must
with broken things,
with fairly painful utensils,with great beasts turned to dust as often
as notand my afflicted heart.
~ Pablo Neruda
The skin of sand
and gravel in the cities and countryside
shivered, because it had been, for far too long, pierced
by the quick chainsaw slashes of juddering Sherman tanks,
by the vulturous generals in mufti and a secret police
in snugly-fitting disguises, with a northern licence to act;
and so they all did, as the republic retched in disgust.
The hunched workers
and spavined peasants duly endured
their grapnel shoulder-yokes and staggering fatigue,
until their lives were caught on snags of dread and despair.
Where were the blossoms of expected rosy times and
Where, the halcyon nest of hush that soothes spiky
Where, the salvation signs across the prophetic Andean
Now that the years
of trampling and butchery have
their highly polished jackboots and accurate meat-hooks,
and the new vote has cut the abundant waste of citizens,
the cannas and marigolds will blaze, street by street,
and branch and brandish freedom, fiercely, Victor,
all the way down the ribbon of your southern landscape.
Source: Originally published in the September/ October 1993 issue of Boston Review 1993-2003.