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Eugenia Solo

 

Sikka, Flores, January 1999

 

Eugenia Solo died in 1857.


The Catholics told her:


All good girls go to heaven


Does heaven have a capital Sister?


She asked, and was soundly slapped


And told: We have given you a name


A destiny, a decent God


Some exceptional consonants and vowels


What else could you want from us?


What in God's name?

 

Eugenia Solo wanted the Dutch to come 


And put a von in front of her name


Von Solo, from one


The place of one


This was her island she told them proudly


A betel map of Flores


Tattooed on her thigh


So they took all her rubber, and silver and coffee


A fair exchange for a von


And a child she named Von Hans 


And an illness without a name or cure

 

Eugenia Solo's name came from a mass 


Mumbled in blood and soil 


At the edge of the ocean


They built the graves too close to the cliff 


The water ate around them 


Leaving the deceased high up


On sandstone columns 


Grassy tops, waving in the wind


Like hair


The crucifixes fell down eventually


To concuss those fish nibbling at the dead


One of the dead men she had loved

 

Eugenia Solo forgot her Sikka name


Forgot the name of her island


Because she was a dullard


Or so she thought


And came to believe that nothing had come before


She watched the missionaries


Draw numbers on the plaster feet


Of one hundred Marys


It was her job to find one hundred grottoes 


To place them in one hundred sanctuaries


This she did with alacrity


Without a bonnet


Never learning to count

 

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  • A. Frances Johnson 'Eugenia Solo'