Category Archives: poetry

Mentors, Muses & Massacres


There are people in our lives who see us with eyes of unconditional love and support. They see the best version of us, the clearest vision of who we are, and who we can become.

These people are our mentors and muses. To be seen through their eyes is to feel inspired, motivated, and challenged.

I am blessed to have many such people in my life: my family and friends, coworkers and communities. They are artists and activists, people of faith, people of commitment, and people of compassion.

Julio Serrano EcheverriaOne such friend is Guatemalan poet Julio Serrano Echeverría. Julio was intriqued by my stories about working with the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG).

I had told him about the exhumations of the mass graves from the internal armed conflict, and the process of identifying the remains of the massacred innocents.

“One of the most heartbreakingly poignant moments” I added, “was returning the bodies to the families for proper burial.”

This process included the ‘dressing of the bones’… placing the remains of the victims into brand new clothes as we laid the bodies out in rustic wooden coffins. These clothes were gifts of love and remembrance from the family members: painfully expensive, gorgeously elaborate huipiles (woven blouses), colorful skirts, and bandanas to carefully cover the skulls. Mementos, such as photos, toys, jewelry, or cacao beans (considered to be currency in the afterlife) were also added.

These stories moved Julio to write a poem –powerful in its simplicity– that I want to share with you.  Julio thanked me for helping to inspire the poem… but the opposite is equally true. I am thankful to him for finding beauty and meaning in the work that I do.

A un cuerpo que se viste para su entierro

Caerá tu falda sobre la tierra
como cayó alguna vez
junto a tu cama.

Te ves igual de hermosa
vestida de colores,
aunque solo seas
polvo
y hueso.

– Julio Serrano Echeverría,  Actos de Magia

To a body that is dressed for its burial

Your skirt will fall to the earth
as it once fell
by your bedside.

You look just as beautiful
dressed all in colors,
even if you are only
dust
and bone.

– Julio Serrano Echeverría, Acts de Magic
 (my unofficial translation)