or, "because i will not know what my father saw the day he crossed"
by Lauren Licona
the sun breaks like a yolk over the sonoran
and trickles dry into a tarp tent held together
by shrub branches, a makeshift beacon.
no rain has touched the ground in nearly a week.
on the staggered pulse of morning,
the man’s joints crack as he reaches
for his brother’s shoulder.
they have spent all night sweltered together
on desert rock, crouched and marrow tired.
their skin pricked and blistering,
he extends a calloused hand
and rattles him awake.
“vamos” he says. their going flows
into the early hours, out into the day.
they walk and carry and walk
and carry until their walking becomes the dredging
of limbs towards a horizon that seems
to wander backwards. the man feels the blisters
on his feet and thinks of his father. the one who roamed
from his family, only to give name to a son who has made
a sojourn of himself. he looks at his brother, less boy
by the minute. were they really moving forward?
or were they just wandering ‘round, never stumbling
out of themselves?
on the seventh mile of the day, they rest at the top of a hill.
on the other side of the mound, a man’s expatriated body
lay unclaimed in the desert. when asked years later,
the younger one would only recall the sight of an arm
fixed straight like an hour hand at midday.
the brother chokes, “who did this?” and
the man looks past, his voice cracked. “coyotes.”
he remarks, and pulls the boy away. his thoughts stagger back
to honduras. to the coop behind their house,
the fence ajar. how their father struck him for crying at
the sight of a gallina clawed open: a split and empty
chest cavity, a bird’s gaping mouth,
thirsting for speech, the way blood
ruptures and settles
into the dust.
what is a country but what remains
after being broken in and torn into?
what is a border but a line of men,
flanked into themselves?
to cracked speech, walking. i know a border,
before i see my father. but what is a line
years later, i will look at my chest ajar,