Unknown Soldier

I can only guess at where you came from
Did you grow up in the country
Did your father spend his days with a basket on his back
On someone’s farm picking coffee
When he came home from the fields did he throw you on his shoulders
And take you on a pony ride
When you went to bed with no food in your belly
Did he hold you when you cried

How many of your siblings gave in to the hunger
That the healers couldn’t save
How many bodies did you pull out from the river
For how many did you dig their grave
When did you decide to leave the village
Was it just something that you knew
Was it just time for you to go or did you know
Exactly what you set out to do

Every song I’ve written has been a love song
This one is just another
Song for the love of an unknown soldier

Did you spend years in the jungle fighting for your freedom
Fighting for your people’s liberation
Did you watch your companeros die around you
While you held fast to your vocation
Did you make rocket launchers in your rebel hideouts
Like your mother made papusas
Did you dream the dreams of La Pasionaria
Or those of Poncho Villa


All I know is that I saw you on a rooftop in the city
In a photo on the cover of the Times
Long black hair flowing down, a machine gun in your hand
In your face was freedom’s ringing chimes
Looking at your picture, one of a thousand killed that day
In a moment I could feel that my heart grew
And in all the trials of my life you know
I can only hope to be as beautiful as you
He grew up on a farm in a troubled Irish land


“Unknown Soldier” appears on the 2005 CD, For the Moment.

A love song for a guerrilla fighter I never met.  I’m just imagining her, really, based only on my knowledge of civil war in El Salvador, and the picture that was on the cover of the New York Times in November, 1989 — during the November Offensive at the time — of a beautiful, camouflage-clad Salvadoran woman with long black hair and an AK-47.