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.
for my cousin Julia Zetino The words Notice to Appear flap like a monarch trapped in a puddle. Translation: ten years in a cell cold enough to be named Hielera. If not that, a plane with chains locked to her legs. My aunt swam across the Río Bravo twice to see her second daughter born in Greenbrae. ¿Why can’t my sister come here? asks the one who speaks English. The monarch’s beaten, but it won’t listen. Since nothing’s wasted, it might get eaten, it will nourish ants already gathering. * It was a hill like this. I was tired. I couldn’t keep running and fell. If it wasn’t for the women who went back to pick me up from the shore, I wouldn’t be here. * Somewhere along here there’s a bridge. A cactus-pear bridge, red like: the dirtiest sunset, Gila monster hiding, leftover sardines in tin. ¿The hibiscus sprouting? ¿Bougainvillea? One daughter wakes and sees them and the volcano, and fire flowers through her window. She’s never seen the bridge her mom isn’t afraid of. * My aunt, twenty-five years selling pupusas near that pier, ten and counting cleaning houses, baking bread, anything in Larkspur. Most people in La Herradura haven’t seen their parents. Her daughter Julia, over there. Here, her daughter Adriana takes the bus to school every day. * The first try we were already in that van and La Migra was chasing us. The driver said he was going to stop, we should open the doors and run. There were a lot of trucks. Sirens. Men through the speakers. I got to a bush and hid. One dog found me. He didn’t bite. He just stood next to me till one gringo handcuffed me. * This beach, these hills, are pretty. It looks like La Puntilla, except it’s cold. I wish Julia was here. Javier, take a picture of Adriana and me. I’ll send it to Julia. * It’s complicated. Mamá me dejaste, decí que vas a regresar, I said, at night on that same bed you sleep in now. Same bed next to the window from which you see the lemons, the custard apples, the bean fields, then the volcano. I’m sorry none of us ever saw you draw butterflies like we see Adriana draw them, with the caption: “the butterflies were going to save the world from tornado. And did.”