As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Mari Beltran – Poetry

Belize City, August 2012

No sleep in the city where boys and dogs meet at street corner shrines
to honor the last body that died there.

The sun’s glare takes stride and then slides left,
dips into the ocean each evening somewhere between chicken frying in the skillet
and the channel 7 news:

A 14 year old girl found dead on the country road near Santa Elena.
Another girl shot. In retaliation, a boy is shot from behind while riding his bike home.

His baby sister tells me she has four brothers, she counts on her fingers,
but Kirk is in heaven with God now.

I thought this was heaven but it’s not. It’s just another skinny city
where sometimes the sewers don’t work but there are five different words
for one type of fruit and the people know them all here.

They stretch out their lives to make room for the circumstances of their living,
to catch an overcrowded bus from Corozal to the bordertown of Benque
the ashtray of two cultures that were burned out.

There’s a language that sighs like the statues in cemeteries waiting for life.

The funeral starts at two when the sun is at it’s most brutal
and the bird calls pause for effect.

The little girl twirls in her black dress and says she looks like a princess.
May we all greet death with the festival of a three year old mind.

Here, neglect looks like bare feet and the skeletons of dogs, still walking.
It’s the thought that everything will be better if we pray hard enough,
clutch bibles to our ribcages, make sure there’s one in every household
in case faith becomes obsolete.

In case faith gets washed out, or buried by trees in a jungle that spills out
onto the highways.

On some streets, most of the houses have crumbled,
only staircases left standing.
Little kids climb up, shout at each other from imaginary rooftops,
create empires between alleyways where the shadows play
hide ‘n seek with the sun.

The funeral starts at two and won’t end until late into the night.

People will join the family back at their house,
they will whispers it into corners, he was a bad boy,
the mother denies it.

The goodbyes are slow, open casket.

Contributor’s Notes:

Mari Beltran HeadShotMari Beltran is a Mexican/Irish American writer and photographer living and working in Los Angeles. For the past three years she has facilitated poetry writing workshops on the Apache Reservation in San Carlos, Arizona and with incarcerated youth in both Los Angeles and Belize City.

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