In El Ocotillo, Honduras 

A parade descends from El Ocotillo 
past a mother whose new baby sleeps 
as she stirs a pot over a wood fire, 
past the yard of Dona Elena, 
who fled here after Mitch, past 
the improvised gravesite where 
bony cattle browse the trash, 
past the unlikely schoolyard and 
up to the dump. The parade- 
ninos y abuelitas, young blank men 
carrying machetes and bundles of hacked 
branches, horse carts, and bruised 
trucks laden from the dump- 
all day the parade descends 
from El Ocotillo and from the dump. 
And all day it rises to each- 
one laden trek, one braid 
moving at the pace the sun allows, 
pausing only when a caretta load 
shifts or when breath fails 
an old couple and, lined statues, 
they let the parade slip past 
for one beat, two beats, 
and then resume their climb. 
When it rains, the road swims 
in red silt and years of trash. 
The slow parade drags on like 
gravity itself, sucking on carts, 
on a thousand muddy legs. 
When it rains in El Ocotillo, 
the wind flutters the corrugated sheets 
and large drops drum the tin roofs. 
The rain batters the scarred horses 
and washes broken shoes, flakes 
of circuitry and wood veneer 
and indiscernible bits of cloth 
down the open ditches that catch 
all and cover nothing. The rain 
makes of the road a river 
that leads upstream to the dump. 
Today, the methane may not flare 
among cattle and vultures and kids, 
but it will hang over the shifting mounds, 
more fetid and noxious than ever. 
When it rains hard in El Ocotillo 
and wind tears at the earth, the sky 
lays hands upon mothers and small 
silent children, and tired shacks sag 
toward the bottom of all things. 
Michael Lauchlan’s poems have appeared in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Cider Press, Tampa Review, The Cortland Review, and Innisfree, and have been anthologized by Wayne State University Press (Abandon Automobile) and Oxford Press (A Mind Apart). Lauchlan is an English teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and has volunteered in El Ocotillo, Honduras in 2009 and 2011.