When the lights went out, the “boom-boom” of not-so-distant thunder carried through the neighborhood one block from the Estelí River in northern Nicaragua. As it turned out, it wasn’t thunder at all but rather two explosions that blew out the electrical towers at the edge of town just as darkness fell.They were at it again, Reagan’s contras, and this time rumors spread of an imminent attack, perhaps from the direction of the river itself. In the waning light, a 17-year-old who lived in the home where I was a guest showed me how to use an AK-47 rifle—how to hold the gun, how to load a cartridge, how to take off the safety, how to fire single rounds, how to fire on automatic. I was part of the family now, he said, and could help defend the home. Armed militia patrolled outside the front door that night, and all foreigners were advised to leave Estelí for their own safety. Nearly three decades have passed since I returned home and stored those memories away in a mason jar. I came home a mess from Nicaragua and let the years pass, unable or unwilling to share my experiences in writing. This afternoon, I opened the jar and found that a leaky seal had allowed mold to spread inside, making any memoir dubious. I wanted to throw it out along with the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Instead, I went through the memories and salvaged what I could. In them, a story remains about a choice I had to make long ago—to leave a town under threat of attack or stay behind and face an “enemy” backed by the country of my birth.
On a morning walk I came upon a fairy ring. The pods that made the circle beckoned, so I entered with my daughter, Aislin. Did we find this place because I came with my youngest, who bears the Gaelic name for ‘dream,’ given to her six years ago in honor of her coming? Or was this an ancestral blessing from our homeland, a gift of reawakening? My mind turned to the Connemara, to the Burren, to the Cliffs of Moher, and to the seaside paths of Dunquin where I trod last July. In the next unending moment we journeyed hand-in-hand through the fairy circle to the heart of Anam Cara. From that time of no time, that place of words with no words, we emerged from the sunken ground and continued on our present path back to where we’d come. A light rain fell as Aislin plucked a dandelion. A single puff sent the seeds floating away like parachutes, bearing gifts for the earth.
she wants me to fall…
thinks with one last gust I’ll go—
not this leaf—hell no
Sodden the leaves fall
like a liar’s phony tears
down my storm gutter