N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 3 : S p e c i a l E d i t i o n
L o n g P o e m M a s t e r p i e c e s o f t h e P o s t b e a t s
Augusto César Sandino Patron Saint de la Guerrilla
Mestizo General a Pawn who baffles King
Hero of whom Poets tell tales centuries long:
Man of righteous posture
The sturdy spine of a short slave
A stare to discipline ragged insurgents
Beneath the shadow of his sombrero
The glint of marksmanship
Knee-high boots in northern swamps
Witch doctor wound repair on upper Río Coco
The whirr of campesino machetes
His glancing back and forth, left, and right
Forward with a quiet team of mules through the jungle
Bearing florescent tree branches
20 kilometros by night
Sure-footed on his country's steep history
Leaving no trace sleeping on leaves of plátano
Half-broken guitars and accordions playing at El Chipote
Teenage boys listening from the volcano's cone
Where he stood holding Marine Captain Bruce's fieldglasses
(with its fitted case and compass attachment).
Sandino said he'd been "issued from the womb of the oppressed."
With an afternoon rainbow and a rifle on his shoulder
That his silhouette would reappear on the walls of Matagalpa
y por toda Nicaragua
To life again in the words of Fonseca
The call: armed insurrection
Proceed into battle resolute
Countrymen with nothing left to lose
Comforted by inevitable death
Dignity -- a simple victory:
To die for the cause of the poor.
Vendors of Nicaraguan soil and sweat and fruit and gold
La puta yanqui blond invader occupational force
Sandino made war on them making war
"mindful of the material resources at your disposal."
Sandino wrote to President Herbert Hoover
"You have everything but you lack God"
Sandino's Army a mixed bag
Campesinos, unemployed miners, Honduran rebels
A bone to pick with Standard Fruit
Revolutionary communists from Venezuela,
American Popular Revolutionary Alliance from Peru
Poets the lives of poets in the frontlines
Salomón de la Selva, poet, journalist, guerrilla,
Secretary to Sandino (1928-29), Froylan Turcio, Honduran poet
Man of Latin American letters writing press releases
Dictated news flashes from Tegucigalpa
Reports delivered by 20 year old Chicano from California
Telegraphed from occupied towns.
DATELINE February 27, 1928
Sandinista victory at El Bramadero
¡The moment came, our guns chattered
til they seemed ready to melt with the heat,
and the sad Yankees fell like grasshoppers.
It was the greatest slaughter I've ever seen.
In desperation they fired wickedly like madmen.
They climbed trees and fell perforated with bullets!
Seized property was recorded and a receipt provided to the owner.
“Your ranch has been appropriated by the forces of liberty and justice for all.
Any request for reparations should be made directly to the United States Government. Here's their address:
Office of the President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Anti-Imperialist International solidarity was as Yankees feared
A wild twisting vine tying its way cross borders under bridges overseas:
Augustín Farabundo Martí El Salvadoran C. P. member
Rubén Ardila Gómez Colombian guerrilla fighter
Brits Germans los brigadistas and five U.S. Marines
Desert to join Sandino with Thompson machine guns
US Marine First Lieutenant Richard Fagan writes:
"I'm an Irishman in the service of the United States,
But as an Irishman I say that General Sandino is a patriot.”
Communist Party in the U.S. at peak membership 1930
Chiang Kaishek's forces with placards of Sandino
His silhouette in the streets of Peking
César Vallejo, APRA member Pro-Sandino
Raising funds in Latin Quarter, Paris at tables of wine
At his execution in El Salvador February 1932,
Farabundo Martí said Augusto Sandino was “the greatest patriot in the world”
From Madrid and Chile Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral send letters of support
Edna Saint Vincent Millay was offering comfort care and financial support
to Sandinista poet and combatant Salomón de la Selva.
Sandino's high command:
General Pedrón Altamirano thief turned guerrillero
led Sandinista forces during Sandino's trip to Mexico
Assassinated in 1937 by National Guard
General Manuel María Girón the elder
fell asleep on his horse one afternoon
rode into an enemy patrol and his death
General Juan Gregorio Colindres intelligent son of wealthy mining family,
the combatant who declared himself new President of Nicaragua
without Sandino's approval in 1932, then said he was sorry.
General Miguel Ángel Ortez, local hero from Ocotal,
Ambush mastermind kills eight Marines on New Year's Eve 1930
Falls in a fusillade at Palacaguina May 15, 1931.
Hailing from Jinotega bilingual General Abraham Rivera Mosquito Coast Robin Hood
leader of Sandino's sixth column who hectored United Fruit
Killed after Sandino at Wiwili
General Carlos Salgado day laborer de Nuevo Segovia
Identified by U.S. Marines as the guy on an Indian nickel
Evaded capture and disappears from history books.
A week before 1932 US elections General Juan Pablo Umanazor a Honduran
took Miguel Ángel's post to lead major Sandinista victory at Chichigalpa
And died by firing squad in the heap with Sandino in 1934.
General Francisco Estrada, mechanic and poet
first Sandinista Governor Department of the Segovias,
(capital in Jícaro called Ciudad Sandino then)
Later in the heap with Sandino in 1934.
Coronel Santos López, 17 year old orphan with gun at 12
Climbed a wall that night to escape the heap Sandino died in.
Santos López walked north into the mountains
Into the hills of Southern Honduras and waited there until 1956
for Carlos Fonseca, a regroup, a resuming of the struggle
la formación de la Frente Sandinista Liberación Nacional.
"I speak to you Spanish America that as long as Sandino breathes,
the independence of Central America will have a defender.
I will never betray my cause."
The trains had to be stopped
The fruit trains of United and Standard
Screeching to a halt July 19, 1932
Conductor's head bouncing down the track
The smell of kerosene and crackling banana skins
Cries of ¡Viva Sandino! returning to the jungle
Eight columns stage a major offensive
Hitting at will hitting Chinandega and León
Rustling Sandino's brother-in-laws' cattle
Hitting the elections in the United States
Sandino sensing victory chides Hoover:
A rabid impotent beast who has earned eternal curses
from all the parents sons and brothers of the Marines
fallen in the fields of Segovia.
Smoke twirling from a mountainside thick with hardwoods
Beneath those trees we toasted iguanas on long sticks
drank hijacked rum dreamed new victories.
How could the struggle be anything but religious?
Beardless and bearded inheritors of the Sermon on the Mount
It was our blood and their wine that had to be spilled.
Hosannah, higher were the stakes
Nuns were raped and shot in the back.
I grabbed a gun from a Cuban canoe
And there were nine more sisters
bien armadas staring at the maps.
A volatile friend will go the extra mile
Carries your pack you don't know how far
or if you'll ever see it again
He dies young you know this by his
nature reckless feckless courageous
Suckers and heroes die just the same.
So for Oscar to risk his dear inheritance
in an act of subversion
kidnapping an uncle had to be thought out.
Was it a trap for everyone to fall in?
un gran foso común?
Christmas no less how to explain our absence from Mass
and dinner and the soccer match después.
Beware of the generosity of criminals
Persistently and politely ask for one million dollars no less
and freedom for six captured compañeros
A deal for uncle, just say uncle
Lieutenent Enrique Gutiérrez
rustled out of a family barbeque
and into a Volkswagon bus
for a holiday ride into a la montaña.
Mountains deep as high over and under we dug in
waited for the news to hit
¡Guerrillas Attack La Navidad
Sequester Un Campesino
Demand One Million Dollars!
For a hostage to take a hostage is indeed a desperate act
They got Oscar drunk enough not to think about it for nights on end.
He slept into the afternoon while El Comandante did the talking
and we listened on clandestine radio.
In Hamburg Julio had no luck
He went house to house to each of the houses
he was told to hit y nada
No revolutionary millionaire appeared
The lefty de Medici had gone to Greece
The eccentric socialist had gone Muktananda
He stood in the square with his compass
Where to go for 10,000 marks or a dozen trucks
or a bridge or a ticket or a potluck solidarity dinner?
He had done four years at "the European front"
door to door through half of Europe raising funds for la lucha
converting currencies into wireless communiqués
to Nicaragua. Dinero every cordoba it was worth.
Julio'd done his time on couches
in the streets of London too sleeping
on his hands. His head now and then
couldn't say no to a pipe extended kindly
dream strand to swing on by night.
And coming up empty in '74 sucked
wildly on Lebanese hashish and was bound
for Madrid with a kilo in a leg cast to limp
it to Lisbon, a deal and a sail to Rabat and
a deal and a freighter to Limón Costa Rica
with a suitcase of she-she waiting to be paid for in Miami, yep.
Julio was a hero when the Uzis showed up.
And he held one high in his Vaurnet sunglasses.
And who wouldn't light a Cuban cigar in his honor.
After all, we went to school together.
He studied languages. I study economics.
¡Fists clenched in the air on to the zones y Pancasán!
Vultures peck at our war dead
Bodies as bloated as enemy statistics
bob and twitch in the fury of leather heads.
Their shirts are shredded and hearts open
to a hot morning sky full of black birds
carrying pieces of us in their mouths.
We wept in trees watching with orders not to fire
Below a rustle in the underbrush and the clamor of pack and gear
Enemy troops passing below then over to the hill to pick at the dead
with their rifle butts.
We lowered ourselves fanned out around the clearing
only moving with the breeze cover as instructed
muffling the click of magazines.
As the enemy pilfered the pockets of beak torn bloody clothing
we waited the call of the carpenter.
That as then.
•••• •••• •
Peeling off a uniform
skin's still numb with the rattle of guns
I close my eyes I see them fall
again and again and the one I hit square in the chest.
The revolutionary heart is full of love I've heard
the revolutionary heart kills for love.
But not mine. I've taken all I could.
Not this heart.
My hatred for them
saved my life.
I'd've never killed
and never would have lasted this long.
•••• •••• ••
La casa de Soledad wasn't the safest house, but where we felt most at home.
Doña Sol would give us her world, at that time four rooms, 2 rockers, a tub, a radio.
Most precious was the truck that her husband left.
On Sundays Doña Sol would give us the keys
to drive her and her kids to Xiloa the lake
near where she grew up.
Floating on my back in a volcanic lake
Gunfire over the ridge I turn over to see
the unit getting dressed hurriedly on shore.
12 of us then riding wet in the back of a truck
buttoning shirts so our hearts weren't beating
like targets on a Sunday afternoon
Roadblock ahead they have guns ready
We pull over, empty into a cottonfield except Roberto y Doña Sol and two kids
to answer questions. If questions come first.
Two jeeps approach the truck
Ten Guardia spring off the fenders
fingers on the triggers.
Roberto and Sol with manos arriba
stand on opposite sides of the road
The children are held off with rifle barrels.
We crept through the rows
Like a dog stops panting to hear better
- ears go up, nostrils flare -
Green eyed Alsino would stop before a firefight
To look at all of us, again, por si fuera la ultima vez
Meeting eyes with him was a blessing
no one missed.
We crept through the rows of cotton
Doña Sol froze as un gendarme pawed at her legs for arms
Roberto spoke as they eyeballed him at gunpoint
as he lied quicker than he could signal with his back to us
Breathing through moth eaten bandanas
we fired on them from the rows
A quiet afternoon floating dust.
Blood on the cotton blood all over
my left sleeve and the road
muscles tensing on all the strings.
All the strings pounding we fired on them
The one who shot Roberto killed instantly
Sol y sus chicos under the truck.
We pushed toward the barricade
They took positions, radioed for air and ground support
We would engage them til it got here.
Roadside right we took to the gulley to the left
we took to the rocks anti-aircraft nested 100 meters
off the road quiet in the rows.
Again advancing advancing
with two dead dragged into the field
their blood dries in the rows.
The earth drinks the sky devours souls of our compañeros
We say quick prayers for the fallen
Sunlight blaring through the dust.
# # #
[Used by permission of the author.]
Born in New Jersey in 1958, Joseph Richey earned a B.A. in Poetics from then Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado (1983) where he studied with poet Allen Ginsberg, and later earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado (1992), where he studied with poet Ed Dorn. Richey has lectured briefly at Naropa, the University of Colorado, and la Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica where he edited the academic journal Istmica, Revista de la Facultad de Filosfía y Letras. A collection of early poetry, Riding the Big Earth, was published in 1986 by the University of Maine’s National Poetry Foundation. Richey also edited Ed Dorn Live: Lectures, Interviews, Outtakes from Edward Merton Dorn (University of Michigan, 2007). Richey’s freelance print journalism has appeared in Alternet, CorpWatch, Mexican business journal Expansión, Counterpunch, Aperture, and other periodicals. With support from the Nation Institute Investigative Fund he researched federal contracts with the Department of Homeland Security, focusing on prisons and the U.S. Mexico border. In broadcast journalism, he has produced radio programs for Pacifica, the National Radio Project, and KGNU 88.5 FM Boulder, 1390 AM Denver, and provided research for Al Jazeera and an edition of PBS Now. He is currently Manager and Editor at Alternative Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly public affairs radio program.