Rio Sapo, El Salvador


Walking the sun up, slowly,

toward the river --


Down from dawn shadows of adobe houses and tall corn,

And by thin, brown men going past

with little sound

into their days


Down past the slopes of stony soil and sheltering trees

And by orchids held small and pale

on a lonely, strong branch


Then, standing in thin flip flops

skirt tucked between knees

The twist and wring rhythm


by the slap of soaked cotton across wet rock


Later, clothes scattered out to dry -

phantom-armed shirts outstretched,

pants, one ghost knee crooked across the other

-look like forgotten things


Lifting the clay jug for the walking up,

And the pause, look ahead, steady the shirring weight of water,

as familiar as the river flowing

toward dusty fields of corn and men,

toward the sea of the souls of women


Jennifer Hughes