Pablo Rodríguez steps thirteen paces out into the night and buries a wooden box. Its contents: a chain, a medallion, a few overexposed photographs, and finally, a deed. He burrows into the ground without knowing quite why, but with the certainty of a heavy change pressing through the air, of fear settling “like a cat in his throat.” Meanwhile, his wife Ester a sharpshooter and keeper of all village secrets slips into her fifth dream of the night. As Ester tosses and Pablo pats his fresh mound of earth, another character emerges in Eliana Hernández Pachón’s vivid and prophetic triptych.
The Brush is a tangled grove, a thicket of vines, an orchid pummeled with rain. Told from the voices Pablo, Ester, and the Brush itself, Hernández Pachón’s poem is an astounding response to a traumatic event in recent Colombian history: the massacre in the village of El Salado between February 16 and 21, 2000. Paramilitary forces tortured and killed sixty people, interspersing their devastating violence with music in the town square. The Brush is an incantatory, fearless exploration of collective trauma and its horrific relevance in today’s Colombia, where mass killings continue. It is also an extraordinary depiction of ecological resistance, of the natural world that both endures human cruelty and lives on in spite of it.