by Nicole Lachat
Entering this country was a long prayer;
We dipped across the treeline begging
the field to recognize us, to make of our bodies
a member of its grasses, its dense brush.
We could not spare bread, so we left tears
seeded along the way. We left our hope
of return. Knowing, we only had one chance at this.
I clung to my son’s hand, to the promise of green
growing on the other side, growing
like stacks we might hold in our hands,
like a card with my name, like permission.
Green the scent we walked through,
the field between. I made a wager
with every step that green was sweeter
than what we had left, though fear
kept me low to the ground. Every sound—
a car backfire, a siren, the sound a pheasant breaking into flight,
set my heart to terror. Somewhere along the way,
a deer leapt across the horizon jolting my body
stiff. Beneath my breath I kept asking:
God, who split the sea, keep the owner
of this farmland asleep in his bed,
grant the patrol agent temporary blindness,
and turn us into wild geese, should any gringo
pass por aqui.
In my body I carry territories:
the jungle path that runs near my tía’s chakra,
the waterfalls of Huacamaillo where we bathed
and played as children, el cerro de la Merced.
I fear I will not see them again. With every step forward,
my body mourns the country that birthed me,
but this distance remains small. After all, it plagues
my tongue, it’s pressed into the soft sun of my skin.
Wherever I go, white bodies seem to notice.
I will try to hide this otherness, the thick in my throat
when I say, hel-lo. When anxiety rises,
I will tuck behind a smile, look down to the floor,
pray no one asks to see identification.
I am asking God to get me through
this moment. To see us to the other side.
I promise to stay good. I will give up
the little I have: my favourite dancing dress,
my photo albums, my mother’s house. God,
if you’ll just keep this body veiled, unseen
to blue-eyed inspectors, I will make good use of my hands
and never rest idly. I will give you anything
you ask for, if you just let my son live
another kind of life.