Missing Children
Susan Ito

When it happens in Texas
      or Connecticut or Iowa
the printed posters appear
on telephone poles, taped to laundromat windows
waxy photos framed on cartons of milk
the school portrait glows on the evening news
and neighbors fan out with flashlights.
The word is missing:
      a hopeful, waiting word like lost or displaced
the word for car keys or the mate to the gray sock.
It has a kind of American optimism.

When it happens in Zelaya,
      or San Salvador or Chichicastenango
the word is disappeared.
Evaporated like candle smoke.
Mothers carry their one photo
      smudged from the soot of woodfire
      in the pocket of their aprons
Walk days into the mountains
asking the bullet pocked trees
      if they have seen this boy named Juan.
The Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs
walk to the cemetary, their arms full of flowers.
They kneel against the headstones
      and stroke the carved looping pathways
      with a finger that remembers how the
      ear, too, curved around like this.
The mothers of the disappeared stay home,
tracing the letters JUAN
in the air.

Children who never come home
are gone
in any language,
     they occupy an uncertain space
     neither dead nor alive
floating in the silver field
of photographs,
trapped between paper and stone.

*Acknowledgement: Sheila R. Tully

photos of disappeared

photos of disappeared

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