Guerzom M —

By Edward Caruso
Allende's tomb poem
Edward Caruso

Guerzom M —

approached as I photographed

Gladys Marín Millie’s tomb,

three rusted sheets of metal

with her portrait cut into one,

the face as resonant

as the hammer and sickle

projected on to the second sheet by shadow.


Guerzom asked if I knew who she was:

secretary of the party.

‘And during the junta?’ I asked.

The only reply: exile.


Past the mausoleum with the Persian arches

to the stone tombs

with widening columns and no capitals,

we reached Allende’s site.

I was drawn to the last speech,

in a block above the stairwell,

too difficult to read as the sculpted letters

were the same colour as the stone.


Guerzom, exiled in Argentina for eighteen years,

he’d returned, and we’d met in this cemetery by accident.

He recalled Victor Jara,

in blue jeans and with a wanderer’s pose,

the vagabond/troubadour description

of a figure deeply loved, but in view too briefly.


Guerzom, a slight figure with not a single white hair,

aged by tobacco, gesticulated as he spoke

of a hijacked democracy and press in too few hands.

His first-hand knowledge

punctuated the concrete surfaces of the tombs,

the mythical centuries of a transplanted classicism,

a view of the sky and green, the surreal smell of lawns,

and regular funeral procession.


I implored Guerzom to value his health,

the smoke that circled us dismissed.

He stood over Allende’s speech,

words to be read to a small crowd

that would gather in some future

to render this death less solitary.


Exile in many epitaphs,

we could air our ideals,

these tombs, the strict lines

and stone walls,

miniatures of public buildings,

each quarter a city to be brought

to life in the imagination.


Unable to bring back a single life,

we were present in this search

for symbols denied by some,

endlessly affronted by others,

in the families of those

thrown to the sea

who will never know of this conversation.


For a few hours of personal liberty

a civic conscience can be revived

before dissolving in another part of town,

by a murky view of the snow-capped Andes.


Guerzom, man figure, closer to the party than me,

our embrace before the tomb

the question mark of any future encounter

at this site.