Father’s Memory of a Mexican Mining Camp
by Cindy Williams Gutiérrez
from The Small Claim of Bones, 2014
Softly, it always began softly. Then slowly swelled to a wail. Men’s voices. Maybe seven of them
up on the hill behind the house.
A breeze through the window stirred the curtains like clouds. I was five, or six. Around midnight it would start—such a doleful sound.
They were drinking. It was Saturday and the mines were closed. Their song
would wake me—their longing. It was a language I knew,
though I couldn’t make out the words. But the music—that was theirs. Some ancient secret. A string of notes piecing together who they once were.
My twin brother slept soundly.
I was alone with this mystery. It haunts me even now, this lament to their gods. If flowers were songs—
if the marigold sang, it would mourn like this. I imagine them still sitting on a dark hill chanting their dirge. Some nights I wake—
I hear them. I don’t remember my dreams, so I dutifully make my way to the window. All I see are clouds and mist.