Bag of Bones

By Kristen St Louis
10th grade, Ethel Walker School, CT

With lines from "Families of Colombia's Disappeared Endure 'Never-Ending Grief' and a Wrenching Search" by Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Most nights, the alarm clock fails
to wake me up before she walks by,
her footsteps
                        c r a c k i n g
their way down the bumpy calle, past all-night tiendas,
up montañas of unkempt cement, into puddles of decade-old gasoline
yet she keeps on searching

Each night, I try to catch a glimpse,
try to steal a note of her perfect song,
her screams a trail of breadcrumbs.
Screams used to break the silence
when it was a paramilitary base in the late 1990s.
No one knows just how many civilians were brought
and buried
somewhere on this farm
yet she keeps on searching

Some nights, I rob her of her cloak
with only my eyes
and leave her stranded there
c r a c k i n g
naked and noisy.
But at least I'm being true to the story,
the story painted in shades of
yellow, blue, and red,
the story told by the paramilitary who killed her,
said he got her naked,
used her,
and then
killed her.
Yet she keeps on searching

Tonight, I let her search without distraction
leave her,
to join him and
stroll as he slumps towards that slimmer of light
in the distance
hidden in the dark brown bark, and nestled in its roots.
The path of grass before us flattened and lit by the
soft orange hue of "maybe"
Una bolsa de plástico–vacía–in his left hand
and a yellow paper with her name on it in his right.
Occasionally, he forgets the paper,
and wipes it in a swift motion across the growing beads
on his forehead, the sweat so heavy it indents additional lines.
Marquez had been told his daughter was tied
To trees before she was killed
And he led us to them, now
And bare
the dark brown bark turned darker and the soft hue
dimmed to darkness.
No daughter of bones present to sing a better song
of homecoming

No daughter of bones around at all.
Yet he keeps on searching,
searching for that
                c r a c k i n g
Any hint he can get of a
                c r a c k
Any clue left behind of what has been
                c r a c k e d.

These dreaded hills of bones–
somebody's, but not his–
the rolling hills silent witnesses to
atrocious crimes,
every vale a possible mass grave.
Every potential remain a potential claim–
but all too often a pile of remains turns to dust,
turns into these bumpy calles, unkempt montañas
of what we thought was cement.

Su bolsa con los huesos
y su bolsa con nada.

All he wants is her bag of bones
and all she wants is to give them.

They'll keep on searching

Kristen St Louis
Kristen St Louis

Kristen St Louis, a 16 year old junior at the Ethel Walker School, is fascinated by reading and writing about unheard of issues. She is also an active member of her school's poetry club, theater program, and LASO club (Latinx American Student Organization). Through her club, Kristen strives to bring awareness about events in Latin American communities to her school though informational conversation and cultural events. In the future, she hopes to continue writing diverse plots while also impacting the community through public policy.

Read more winning entries from the 2019 Fighting Words Poetry Contest