For Sherwin

About two years ago, I wrote a poem for Sherwin Harris for his 70th birthday.

I had met Sherwin before, when he came down to Guyana in 1978 along with Congressman Ryan. More importantly, he was there to see his daughter Liane who – like me – lived in the Temple’s Georgetown house in Lamaha Gardens. I first saw him during his visit with his daughter. The second time I saw him was November 19, the day after Liane died – one of the four in Georgetown to do so – but we did not speak. He was sickened with grief, just beginning to try to make sense of the loss of his daughter. During the years since that time, what I remembered most about him was his glare, which, out of not understanding the situation, suggested that those of us who had survived had some responsibility for her death.

Twenty-seven years later I was at a party at a the house of a friend and neighbor of mine. There, a friend of my neighbor since childhood mentioned that she had another friend, who had a daughter who died in Guyana. As we talked, I realized that she was referring the father of Liane Harris. She put me on the phone with him and we talked. We arranged for a time to meet in the following week.

I went and spoke with him at his home in Hayward. I was able to provide him with information about Liane that he did not know. We also discussed things that both of us did know about her. It was a magical time for both of us, and we were able to change that moment, fixed in time, when we briefly met at the police department in Georgetown.

The following is a poem that I wrote as a gift in celebration of his 70th birthday:

It was as though time had not existed

It all came rushing forward


So much had happened.



Unanswered questions.

Your appearance, indelibly imprinted in my fibre

Time, and still more time passed,

We were swimming in the abyss of mystery

Lingering in its strange familiar darkness

And then one day,

time became a magic rain, sprinkling gently

on our perpetual dusk.

softly nudging us into a sweet melancholic dawn.

It was then,

and remains so hence,

that she became oh so present,

Her wit, her strength, her charm,

that unforgettable smile

and delightful way,

Her essential nature,

radiating in our hearts and vibrant within us

A pure joy, a profound love.

Where she remains present,

in our breath,

and in our being,

Bringing to us

A very special


(Jordan Vilchez lives in Northern California. Her complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. She may be reached at