M. Soledad Caballero


What Remains Buried 


M. Soledad Caballero is a CantoMundo fellow, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a New Poet's Prize. She has also been a finalist for the Missouri Review's Jeffry E. Smith poetry prize and the Mississippi Review's annual editor's prize. Her work has appeared in the Missouri Review, the Mississippi Review, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Memorius, the Crab Orchard Review, Anomaly, and other venues. She is an Associate Professor of English at Allegheny College, and her scholarly work focuses on British Romanticism, travel writing, post-colonial literatures, WGSS, and interdisciplinarity.

“The CIA’s plan to disrupt Salvador Allende’s candidacy in Chile was called Track I.
Track I expanded to encompass a wide range of political, diplomatic, psychological, and economic policies, as well as covert operations designed to bring about the conditions that would encourage Chileans to stage a coup.” – from the CIA’s website CIA Machinations in Chile in 1970  


We buried the silverware deep, on a Sunday
afternoon behind the rose bushes, in sand
and gravel imported in from Tata’s factory.
An army of hands and legs, we hid in
the kitchen, a look out at the door. The rest
of us carried fistfuls of coffee spoons, salad forks,
butter knives, across the terrace. We snaked
through wicker furniture, bare feet on red clay,
ran to the far corner of the yard, scooped out
mounds of dirt, digging out wet heaps with
soup ladles. Five, six, seven, eight holes carved
out of the earth. We threw the silver stash inside.
Abuela’s wedding dowry, patted down the sand,
laughed about empty, drawers cleaned out of utensils,
lonely, friendless spaces, left abandoned. 

A coup climate exists within Chile.”

Sons, fathers, husbands, executioners. They threw
limp bodies, drugged, broken, out of planes over
the Atlantic Ocean. They buried bodies in the desert.
Starved, beaten, cooked through, electrocuted.
They wanted water and dirt to swallow dissidence,
hide the screams, cover over the blood and spit,
the cracked bones. Colonia Dignidad, Tres Álamos,
Villa Grimaldi, Londres 38. From Arica to Chillán
they fed death to water, earth, and sky. Fed bile and spit
and sadness to dry, muted places. Decades later
the water graves cannot be found. Birds peck,
scavenge, fly over nameless mounds. Creatures of flight
and song, birds know nothing of the death flights
or the mounds. They witness only the rain, the buds
and flowering plants that wake with water and light. 

 “It’s that son of a bitch Allende. 
We’re going to smash him.” 

We wanted to be pirates, a gang. The oldest,
I was seven, maybe, leader to my younger cousins.
We were bored. The sun was out. It was spring.
Our parents were at the dining room table,
lingering over wine, coffee, dessert. Somewhere
laundry spinning. The afternoon breeze filtered
through the windows. The birds in the birdcage
sang. Their sounds trembling through bushes
as we stumbled past them with our loot. Our lives
soft like the bird feathers fluttering, dancing,
small sails falling through the air. We marched
past with kitchen treasures. Something to put
into the ground, something hidden. A world made
of games and sticky candy. 

The key is psychological war within Chile.”

The truth discovered, our parents marched 
to the sand in silence. Forced us to bend
into the dark dirt. Watched us scoop, shovel.
Piles and piles of gravel and dirt, mounds
with no evidence inside. We found very little,
a fork, a butter knife. It had all gone missing
How to discipline the wildness. To find the trail,
the secret passage to the silver. They searched
for weeks, looking through the dirt for signs.
Hoped the earth would reveal the order we
ignored. We buried silver, wanting joy in the dirt,
looking for secrets and love in the wet clay. 

You have asked us to provoke chaos in Chile.”

We knew nothing about what else the earth
will carry. What else the earth will hide,
season after season, year after year, decade
after decade. We did not know the secrets
of the ground, the thick tears absorbed in dank,
hidden rooms. We made funeral pyres out
of silver and soil, little knowing of the pyres
to be unearthed. The dirt and sorrow left to be
discovered. Decades later, we grow our own
gardens, plant our own flowers beds, make
our own families and stories. Some of us hide
from the dead of those years, from their bones,
from their longing, their graves, still abandoned

© The Acentos Review 2018