Two poems on child detention at the Border and la cultura fronteriza

On Sunday May 12, 2019 I was honored to present these two poems at the El Paso Mother’s Day Rally to End Family Separation and Child Detention.  Donna Snyder

Tornillo

Life is short for children detained in cages.
Just like livestock was one ill-considered defense.
Children housed in tents under a fierce desert sun,
small protection from the equally chilling desert night.
Like summer camp was another deplorable explanation.
Lacking only the toxic showers rained on los antepasados
who crossed bridges looking for work. Someone whispered
about los tios, buried in an unmarked grave in South Texas.

Life is short for children who never heard of Nazi death camps,
with showers also fitted to spray poison on the heads of innocents
then buried in other unmarked graves somewhere across the sea.
And now children’s names fly through the air on soccer balls
kicked over fences, like butterflies bound for oblivion, they fly
over walls of el corralon, a corral for humans in a hostile land
where life is short for stolen children, and the land is blackened
with the blood and bones of working people yearning to be free.

###########

A neon desert the only sea
1.
Awareness moves to the right
Electric asters line a green sky
Brake lights baffle the eyes
(Are you paying attention?)
Traffic moves to the right
Think of Louisiana—
Think of Japan—
People disappeared
Structures on stilts still
can’t out walk the waves
Fissured world shifts in its sleep
as sure as the earth beneath your feet
This may be the only world we know
Secrets and lies in camouflage
The stranger’s smile all teeth and eyes
Detainees in your back yard
herded like cattle into the corralón
Downtown old men still hide
numbers tattooed on their wrists
or nopales on the forehead
Catastrophe is our only home now
Dying cougars shot more dead
Unknown bodies beneath the ground
Spying soldiers spread across the sky
A neon desert the only sea
Even metals gone to driest dust
Hear the sound of air through shell
Scent of water glosses the lips of statues
Birds in tree tops sing departure
(There’s about to be an accident)
Our Mama on the wall wears green and blue

She stands on the moon
Blots out the sun
2.
Birds gather in tree tops praying
for all the people dead and gone
Dancers dance with feathers and shells
Mama’s starry cloak shelters her Son
with the nopal tattooed on his forehead
Pray for mercy
Pray for the woman who lives in a car
The detainees in our own back yard
Men with guns at every gate
People disappeared on the river edge
deprived of the solace of rivers and rocks
Our Mama damp with migrant workers’ sweat
Lights wander the other edge of darkness
Nothing sure but this earth beneath our feet
(Are you paying attention?)
Secrets and lies with teeth and eyes
This is your home now
Another day another catastrophe
It’s the only world we’ve ever known
Earthworks break into thunder claps
Random red lights baffle the eyes
Birds falling from the dying blue
Lost fish floating in the dying sea
From my book Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal (Chimbarazu Press, New York 2014)

Previously published in I Am Not a Silent Poet