by Julio Cesar Villegas

Close ​your ​eyes ​—​ ​that’s ​when ​you ​will ​see ​them.

That’s ​when ​you ​will ​see ​the ​sun ​become ​broken: ​the ​silent ​and ​surrendered ​mirror, suspended ​above ​bodies ​of ​bullet-laced ​wind. ​That ​is ​when ​you ​will ​hear ​the ​final sermon ​of ​the ​hanged ​priest.

The ​distant ​fields ​that ​once ​held ​maize ​and ​cassava ​now ​hold ​the ​corpses ​of ​tongues and ​villages. ​Keep ​your ​eyes ​closed, ​because ​that ​is ​when ​you ​are ​able ​to ​see ​what ​the rest ​could ​not.

Trunks ​of ​trees ​snapped ​into ​oblivion, ​the ​snake ​of ​flame ​coiled ​around ​the ​throat ​of ​the soldier, ​there ​is ​no ​night ​and ​there ​is ​no ​day. ​There ​is ​only ​the ​unspoken ​minutes ​of ​a mother ​nailing ​herself ​to ​the ​cross, ​the ​feast ​of ​steel ​wasps ​ravaging ​her ​body ​as ​the children ​escape ​to ​the ​solace ​of ​other ​shadows.

Hills ​of ​delirium, ​crashing ​ocean ​of ​yells ​and ​whispers ​left ​to ​drown ​motionless ​beneath a ​canvas ​of ​cadavers, ​the ​absence ​of ​the ​moon, ​and ​the ​world ​continues ​to ​rotate ​even after ​it ​has ​become ​still. ​Pray ​the ​song ​of ​Solomon ​once ​you ​hear ​them ​march— ​it ​is ​not the ​sound ​of ​their ​boots ​that ​you ​must ​fear… ​the ​sound ​of ​heritage ​betraying ​itself ​is what ​will ​plummet ​your ​soul ​into ​insomnia.

Spell ​of ​restless ​eyes: ​you ​have ​found ​the ​gospels ​written ​within ​you.

A ​dance ​of ​shadows, ​how ​can ​it ​be ​that ​the ​descendants ​of ​kingdoms ​and ​forests ​are now ​numbers ​to ​be ​carved ​into ​the ​notebooks ​of ​generals ​and ​morticians. ​The ​president and ​the ​ministers: ​traitors ​in ​the ​clothes ​of ​heroes, ​demons ​speaking ​in ​saint’s ​tongue.

Shattered ​rib ​bone ​of ​adobe, ​silhouettes ​of ​tapirs, ​mountains ​dividing ​into ​the ​past ​and the ​present, ​eternal ​storm ​of ​folded ​nights, ​ignited ​spears, ​death ​squads, ​a ​choir ​of bullets, ​collapsing ​cathedrals, ​the ​drowned ​generations, ​the ​drowning ​generation, ​the pillar ​of ​voices ​that ​still ​rises ​from ​the ​soil ​of ​El ​Mozote.

Mother ​of ​the ​riot, ​daughter ​of ​civil ​war, ​kingdom ​of ​roots ​now ​known ​by ​the ​name ​of ​El Salvador. ​Open ​your ​eyes ​now. ​The ​sun ​is ​whole, ​it ​burns ​without ​surrender. ​The ​wind now ​floods ​every ​stretch ​of ​this ​earth, ​possessing ​more ​memories ​than ​any ​general’s rifle, ​than ​any ​campesino’s ​fields.

Look ​into ​the ​sky ​—​ ​our ​eyes ​became ​the ​branches ​that ​centuries ​could ​never ​break.

Raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, based in Essex County, New Jersey, and author of Memories of an Old World, Julio Cesar Villegas is the writer that your abuelos warned you about.


​"the ​sound ​of ​heritage ​betraying ​itself ​is what ​will ​plummet ​your ​soul ​into ​insomnia."
Matt, Jan 28, 2018
When I first read Cozcatlán, I knew right away that I wanted to include it in this issue. Julio has a way of weaving images and ideas together that both display with extreme clarity and surprise us with the originality of his language. Thanks much Julio.
Victor D. Sandiego, Nov 16, 2017