The Crossing

by Nicole Lachat

                                        Para G.P.

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. 


back to University & College Poetry Prizes