by Robert Joe Stout
“We were being watched. We were afraid
—we’d been warned—but we had to know,
we had to find out.” María del Carmen
presses her hands against ponderous hips
and peers towards a rustling in the matorral
behind us. “We just were opening the first graves
and we heard gunshots. Zetas—we think
they were Zetas, it was their killing ground,
they didn’t want us there. We ran—scared
we ran, like rabbits—up the hill and around
to where we could see our cars. They chased us,
fired shots over our heads. But they didn’t attack.
Why? A lawyer said because we’re pure garbage,
we’re too fat to bury. Since then
we are careful. We have the ‘
One eye closes as she tilts her head
towards a soldier fiddling with the cell phone
in his hand. “We do what the police, what the army,
refuse to do. The criminals watch us,
we know that. We get threats. Two days ago,
driving back, two men glared at us,
slid their hands across their throats
and laughed. A note: ‘Wear wristlets
with your names engraved
so when we dig you up . . . ’ Things like that.  
But we go on. Why? By one’s corpse
we found a keychain with a name inscribed.
Cruz Ramírez. A musician. His mother came
to thank us. Hunched little woman
hobbling with a cane. ‘He’s home,’
she told us, ‘where his soul belongs.
Now they can bury me beside him.’
That’s why we dig. In a world so evil
one has to do a little bit that’s good.”

Robert Joe Stout has published two books and six chapbooks of
poetry, worked as a journalist, served on human rights
delegations, participated as an actor and director in regional
theater. Newest books: Monkey Screams (FutureCycle Press), Kill
the Teachers (Kindle) and Hidden Dangers (Sunbury Press).