I could bore you with the sunset, the way water tasted after so many days without it, the trees, the breed of dogs, but I can’t say there were forty people when we found the ranch with the thin white man, his dogs, and his shotgun. Until this 5 a.m. I couldn’t remember there were only five, or seven people— We’d separated by the paloverdes. We, meaning: four people. Not forty. The rest. . . I don’t know. They weren’t there when the thin white man let us drink from a hose while pointing his shotgun. In pocho Spanish he told us si correr perros atacar. If run dogs trained attack. When La Migra arrived, an officer who probably called himself Hispanic at best, not Mejicano like we called him, said buenas noches and gave us pan dulce y chocolate. Procedure says he should’ve taken us back to the station, checked our fingerprints, etcétera. He must’ve remembered his family over the border, or the border coming over them, because he drove us to the border and told us next time, rest at least five days, don’t trust anyone calling themselves coyotes, bring more tortillas, sardines, Alhambra. He knew we would try again and again, like everyone does.
Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Javier Zamora. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
From A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harper & Brothers. © 1945 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.