Thursday Poem

School of the Americas

Sergio has ink-pot eyes, girlish wrists.
He draws superheroes extremely well—
Avengers, Wolfman, El Toro Rojo,

any one wearing a mask. Monday nights
we drive to the art club meeting
in the cream-colored Sunbird

I bought with babysitting money.
I don’t know how he ended up with his mom
in the South, just the two of them, but

I spend 9th grade sitting next to him,
translating a Georgia O’Keefe painting
into pastel chalk: a lily dusted with pollen.

One day during class, Sergio tells me he saw
his grandparents shot before his eyes
back in Colombia. The phrase sticks out

in his heavy accent, like a child repeating
something just overheard. After a few minutes,
we go back to our drawings.

In the evenings that year I sign my name
to stock letters sent by Amnesty International
and mail them to faraway dictators

of the 1990s: Mubarak, Mobutu, Marcos.
All the while a quarter of a tank away,
at the School of the Americas (now the

Western Hemispheres Institute for Security
Cooperation) hundreds of Colombian
soldiers train in truth extraction,

how to intimidate, the best ways
to torture. In the yearbook,
I list my hobbies: poetry

and human rights. I have yet
to draw a picture of anything
from life—the art teacher seems

disappointed that Sergio and I
are mere copyists. After graduation,
Sergio finished a year

of art school in Chicago,
got cancer and died.
I guess I had a crush on him

when we were fourteen,
and I sat next to him,
copying those sexual flowers.

One has to start somewhere.
Just start: before my eyes could see,
I drew things like that lily.
by Rebecca Black
from Split This Rock, 2014