Land Sickness: A Sestina

by Bessie Flores Zaldívar

I want to slurp you like an Icee,
I say, turn off the light it’s so loud.
I’ve never slept with a white woman
before. I did not know that a single body
could be so freckled. I can feel our swaying
hours after, like the phantom motion after a boat.

Idalia Herrera & her 21-month son couldn’t find a boat
to cross the 2nd time. Their bodies, recovered by ICE,
so much later they probably couldn’t stop swaying
even on land, now used to the snatching, loud
undercurrent of Rio Grande. A water body
of Honduran blood & sweat & women.

Months after being sent back, the woman
tired of waiting, asylum-hearing pending, but
we know how that goes, arms stiff holding the body
of her son, sleeping in streets, pee-stink as sheets and ice
as meals, got land-sick, which is to say, she got sick of the loud
ness of silence. Of not hearing back. Of knowing there is no swaying

a country that has made its mind. I made my mind when swaying
on the creaking hotel bed with the freckled white woman
that if no one’s in the next room, why not be loud?
I love her, but that’s not what this is about.
Sometimes, her white hands and eyes
could drown my Honduran body.

After a cruise/cross, not everybody
gets purged of the after-phantom swaying,
it can last up to 2 weeks. Fifteen days later, ICE
repatriates the corpses. Perhaps by then, the son & woman
have stopped rocking. Their bodies get used to stillness. What about
the husband? The last text she sent him was what if I drown? Out loud

it sounds so obvious. Of course they’d drown. Understand, what allowed
this doubt was that Idalia was from Honduras. And not everybody
knows that honduras is Spanish for deep waters, so boat
less Idalia had, actually, been drowning & swaying
all her life. Technically, the lungs of this woman
shouldn’t have needed oxygen, but liquid ice.

Hondurans are boats— Always moving, fighting the loud,
deep waters and ice. Trying to reach harbor, haven, full-body.
To cease our swaying is death. I can’t stop. I’m a Honduran woman.

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