With A Jew in El Salvador, Roni Fuller continues a journey begun in two previous volumes, God’s Breath and A Reason for the Wind. In three trips to San Salvador, before and after the death of his wife, Fuller explores the landscape of love, faith, and grief to discover his place in the world.
“El Salvador has become a part of my core,” writes Fuller. “Whether I will ever return I do not know at this moment. I do know that the country, its people in general, numerous acquaintances and good friends in particular, the land, the beauty, the mystery, the essence of the place, all will remain with me as long as I live.”
from A Jew in EL Salvador
From Suchitoto, we walk down the steep path,
passing houses, greeting people, smiling at children.
Half-way to the river, the houses thin, then stop.
The road, too, stops its cobbled path to become
a trail, still steep, descending through the forest.
Green surrounds us, the path becoming smaller,
the trees everywhere, the vines trailing.
The colors of butterflies punctuate the way:
red, yellow, black, brown, orange, blue, indigo,
and others which I think have no name.
There is a butterfly, which, in repose, becomes an owl’s eye,
and one which is a fountain of iridescent plankton.
Another wears its red in barbells, and another in spots.
Tiger stripes, neon glows, and bright oranges
flit quickly before us, then vanish.
At the river a man with a stick and string wades barefoot
to catch the tiny fish that swim by the shore.
He chats about the river and the lanas that live in it,
stinging algae. The birds fly by: boat-billed flycatcher,
ringed kingfisher, northern jacana.
A spotted sandpiper walks around a rock in the river,
perhaps eating the ants that swarm on it.
There are no dangers lurking, other than the lanas,
no thieves behind the trees. Another man walks by,
carrying his morning’s catch of tiny fish.
The sun bakes through the trees, onto our backs,
as we walk up the trail, the path, up the steep hill,
surrounded by butterflies in the forest,
climbing past the houses, increasing in number,
to the top, leading to Suchitoto.