Girl of Lightning

The bodies seemed so much like sleeping children that working with them felt “almost more like a kidnapping than archaeological work,” Dr. Miremont said.
New York Times, September 11, 2007

Thunder loves you,
mumbles charms to warm
you—folded cold body.
 
Lightning’s pity picks you,
licks a kiss, but what’s left
to wick?
 
Even direct hits miss—
no amount of flash and hiss
fires you. Inviolate virgin,
 
inflammable channel to Gods
long gone or gone underground,
ghost-gray flecks left in the rock
 
altar, your shelter for five centuries
where you huddled, red-painted
hair and wreathed with feathers.
 
Weave threads of your shawl—
not a shroud since you were live
when left for dead—weave cover
 
please, I beg your handlers.
Pull stitches so that wound closes
over your smoldered remains.
 
They say you clutch your mother’s hair,
strands in a bag sent up the mountain,
an introduction to the Gods
 
of Science, who read threaded
DNA to determine who you
were related to when human.
 
Not the crushed boy near you,
no brother he nor sister the girl,
bound away to sacred silence,
 
cased in plastic cased in glass.
Visitors point and justify the past:
See what they did—child sacrifice.
 
Fattened ’em up, drugged ’em—
Spanish violence, Christian influence,
border fences, all deserved because of her
 
wad of coca leaves and elaborate braids.
Lightning’s mark spares you display.
Singed cheek and blasted chest,
 
blackened flesh looks less asleep,
flashed back the fact you’re dead,
a charred mummy, so far gone even
 
Lightning’s longing couldn’t wake you.
Thunder won’t forget you, hums
a generator’s song in cooler vents
 
to your coiled form in cold storage—
song of your six years plus five centuries
come to this: doom, doom, doom.
 
Lightning still sighs: release, release, release.

Heid E. Erdrich, "Ghost Prisoner" from National Monuments. Copyright © 2008 by Heid E. Erdrich. Reprinted by permission of Michigan State University Press.
Source: National Monuments (Michigan State University Press, 2008)
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