Something in the boy's eyes had burned long ago.
His skin dried to ash, his neck, tree-bark gray, tightened its cords.
His brother, not yet old enough to believe in gravity,
had held the rock above his head, thinking, perhaps,
it might lift him like those birds that build their nests
in the furthest reaches of eucalyptus trees,
that carry heavy clots of mud and leaves up into sky.
But, instead, it fell and crushed his brother's toes.
The big toe, bruised purple as Lent, pained him all night.
By morning, the nail bed festered, dirt and dried blood caked in pus.
His parents dipped a rag in kerosene, wrapped it
around the toe, set it on fire. His screams muffled the morning
swell of birdsong, silenced dogs that bark behind the plaza.
He came to us sullen, head bowed, the toe black and crusted.
He did not want a doctor, only a blessing, some holy water,
a few prayers. But we took him to the hospital where
they cleaned and dressed the wound. In that village,
many people hobbled on ill-formed feet. Some even wore
a shiny badge of smooth, taut skin where fingers and toes
had been. These, they said, had known fire and been blessed.