Paperback: 72 pages
Publisher: Lulu.com (October 11, 2007)
If there were one thing that a poet must do when approaching their craft, it would most certainly be never avoiding topics which are too horrific or frightful. To be sure, it is a poet’s responsibility to do just that so we can benefit from one’s analysis and commentary. Whether it’s war, famine, genocide, civil rights, or death, the poets are the ones who shine through the darkness to help us better understand our world and give us all hope.
In Blood Soaked Dresses, Gloria Mindock journeys back in time to the late 1970s and the civil war in El Salvador (1979-1992). She exposes both the atrocities and the horror of this conflict, especially the way that women were affected by it. In hauntingly evocative verse that is brutal and honest, Mindock makes this civil war personal for the readers. These are not just nameless individuals who were killed (one figure places the death toll at over 75,000) or maimed by the conflict; instead, as only a poet can do, she resurrects them and the events of this terrible conflict so we won’t forget. Ultimately, she gives a voice to these tormented souls.
In “El Salvador Bird Watches” she writes about a person waiting to be executed:
“My heart beats so fast into this shallow air.
How can I be heard?
Orange rinds are shoved into my mouth
suffocating me with fragrance. Sadness engulfs me
to know my skin will be stripped and added to the heap.”
Aside from the juxtaposition of the sweet fragrance of orange rinds being stuffed into the person’s mouth to silence the screams, what’s most haunting about this poem is the fact that parakeets flock over the capitol city of San Salvador every day at five in the morning and in the evening and they bear witness to the atrocities happening below.
“The sky is blue, and it’s just another day.”
In that one line, Mindock is brilliant as she compares both the parakeet’s flight and the atrocities below as being a daily occurrence.
And in “Death March” Mindock wonders if the world will remember what happened here and if so, to make sure that those who perished here will never be forgotten:
“Who will be at my funeral?
Who out of this dying world?
A few friends, family, a pair of eyes that loved me
but never told me—
Let us sleep admired.”
These poems are a grim reminder of the evil that exists in our world. These could be poems about other places where hell was in session: Cambodia, Sudan, Rwandan, Syria, and Bosnia. It’s always the poets and the saints who get it right. We should heed their words and listen as if our very own survival depends on it.