Vicki Vargas, selections from “Stories from El Corte”

Honorary Dance,
Dajabón Province

Fathers dance with daughters,
careful not to flounce the hem
of their gold trimmed dresses.

El Benefactor holds up a knife, strikes
his wine glass until the music subdues.
Smoothing his thin hair, he proclaims:
300 Haitians are now dead in Bánica.
This remedy will continue.

Claps break air; lips tightened, whistling.
The national anthem muffles
a disembodied voice saying:
Jesus died to save us! Qué esperas?

Unknown Woman

Kneeling in the soil
dividing Quisqueya,
she hears a gunshot.

Dios en cielo, Trujillo en tierra,
she whispers, and is nudged
with the handle of a machete

to rise and leave, but instead
she lays on the uprooted earth
thrusting her body into it.

She is nudged again, but will
not move until she is buried.

Sucking Marrow

El Chivo watches us eat, his seat
a frame on the dining room wall.

Mamí doesn’t believe me, but I’ve seen
his eyes snake to her every move.

Niña, ponte a comer, she says,
pouring sancocho in my bowl.

Chunks of meat rise from the broth
as if gasping for air. I sink the dark

masses with my spoon, gently;
root vegetables ascend instead.

Mamí breaks a chicken bone
with her pale hands and sucks
on the marrow; El Chivo wets his lips.

Tools for Revolution

gunshot; camera flash; smile;
machete; parsley; butterflies;