Santiago de Compostela

by Grant Hartley

2nd Place, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2020


AMERICAN IS 79TH FATALITY

IN SPAIN CAR CRASH

...

The doors busted out like teeth

from their frames

from the houses

of the barrio uphill,

sliding down the dirt to be

offered up as gurneys

for the dead, the dying,

fragmented, our lives

for your lives, to carry them—

...

Myrta,

Robert introduced himself to us at

the coffee stand near the beach in Rincon,

called himself a “man of faith”. Of course

he meant God, but he meant you, too--

he still wears you like fragrance, describes

the crash like he is having a vision:

how you were rested on a long piece

of the wreckage, a makeshift stretcher,

how you were the very last to pass,

in the hospital four days later,

and then he spoke it, seventy-nine,

the number of your death, his lips

formed around the syllables as if burned,

purified by a flaming piece of coal.

...

Fragmented, our lives

for your lives, to carry them—



Artist Statement:

On the 24th of July, 2013, a high-speed train crashed a few miles outside of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Seventy-nine people died, including Myrta, LaSalle Fariza, the wife of a man I met when I was visiting Puerto Rico, Robert. Over an afternoon coffee, Robert shared with me how the residents of the nearby barrio, in a demonstration of human solidarity and compassion, broke off their front doors and slid them downhill, so they could be used to carry the victims away from the wreckage. This poem represents an expression of thankfulness to Myrta, as well as a reflection on what binds all human beings together in the midst of tragedy.

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