Dance of The Condor: A Story of The Bolivian Special Forces

Guest Writer: Michael Leeb; Alberta, Canada

 This narrative poem is a story that was told by a member of the Satinara Condors (Bolivian Special Forces) that he shared with me at a women’s shelter where his mother worked in El Alto, Bolivia, a city adjacent to the capital of La Paz. We visited this shelter for women that were victims of domestic abuse as part of a Solidarity Tour to Bolivia in August of 2017. I participated in this tour as an Observer with the NGO: Development & Peace – Caritas Canada. This tour provided opportunities to visit local Bolivian partner organizations to promote social and ecological justice within Bolivia. The women’s shelter is a partner organization with Development & Peace – Caritas Canada (D&P – Caritas Canada) and receives financial assistance for its’ programs from D&P – Caritas Canada. 

After we shared a meal of traditional Bolivian foods with the staff of the shelter, and were waiting for a mini-bus to take us to our next site visit, a soldier in uniform arrived to visit his mother. He offered to share his story about his experience during his initial training exercises as a new Special Forces recruit; and revealed that he had been injured when his parachute had failed to open during a nighttime exercise. He concluded his story by performing a dance to mariachi music that he played on his mobile phone; ending the dance with a loud screech that mimicked a condor, the battle cry of the Satinara. His love of dancing gave him the determination to overcome his injuries and eventually led to his full recovery, as well as his continued deployment in the Bolivian military where he is still serving along the Bolivian-Peruvian border.  This poem tries to convey this event and his struggles towards recovery.

 

The Satinara Condor

on military exercise

plunges downward

 

an unopened parachute

and a hard landing

in a cornfield

dampened and softened

by a heavy rain

adrenaline making possible

the otherwise improbable

if only …

momentarily

to run through the darkness

 

until lame

disabled

like an unresolved grievance

slumped in the wheelchair of 

despair 

then denial

 

Unforgotten bitterness

yearning for a flight of release

the ability to dance

to cry out

the call of the condor …

while the naysayers 

the voice of

pragmatism replies:

“You’ll never walk again.”

 

By a triumph of the will

a miracle of perseverance

and a month-long recovery

he dances again

to mariachimusic

with an exultant cry of

the condor.

 

I didn’t care,

for my military career;

I only hoped to dance again

to soar once more

with the wings of

a condor.

About Michael Leeb:

Michael J. Leeb is a visual artist, writer, and fine art photographer. Michael was a regular contributor to On|Site Review and his writing includes: poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, and art criticism (architecture). Michael has been previously published in The Nashwaak Review; Existere; and Red Ink. Michael was the Writer-in-Residence at the Gushul Writer’s Cottage in 2013 (Winter/Spring) in Blairmore, Alberta, Canada. (administered by the University of Lethbridge, Fine Arts Dept.). Michael received a project grant in 2014 (Aboriginal Writing) from the Canada Council for the Arts as a métis writer (Chippewa Cree/ German heritage) for a poetry project on the Milk River region of southern Alberta and northern Montana. Michael’s book of poetry entitled: Spirit of Place: Earth, Wind, Sky, Water; was published in 2016 by SkyDancer Books (an imprint of Eschia Books).