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


A. Frances Johnson 'Eugenia Solo'