Susan Fuchtman

Valediction in Guatemala
December 19, 2020 Fuchtman Susan

Valediction in Guatemala


We say goodbye in front
of a blue cement block house,
surrounded by a metal wall, in
a village bordered by squares
of maize, peas, and celery—
and in the distance, but not so far
that you feel completely safe,
the volcano Chi Q’aq’—in Kaqchikel,
“Where the Fire Is.”


I stoop down to hug Elena, mother of six
who has been mother
to my daughter Katy these last months.
I know no Spanish; she knows no English—
our tears say
Thank you
You’re welcome
I know it was a sacrifice
Thank you for trusting me
and all the things mothers say
until we soak the shoulders
of her huipil and my t-shirt.


In the days before we left, Katy showed me around the village.
We walked the rough dirt streets and came to a woman on her porch,
on her knees, weaving with a back-strap loom,
the strap snug behind her-


and like falling,
without weight or tension, we
slip into a new place:
My daughter is my mother,
explaining the loom, translating
the woman’s words, showing
me the way when we leave.
The slipping place stays with us.
She points to a house
where she was invited for tea,
explains how men patrol at night—
they haven’t forgotten the Guerilla’s
massacre of a neighboring village—
takes me to the walled yard
of the school where she taught English.
I look through the gate.


We begin our return, walking by a tethered cow
she passed on her daily walk to school.
She tells me she greeted it “hello” every morning.
We laugh, we slip back,
but not quite all the way.

Susan Fuchtman writes poetry, memoir, and short stories. Her recent and forthcoming work can be found in Plume, Emerge, Flights, Punchnel’s, and Stonecrop Review. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.