Deportation Letter

                      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.”

Let Me Try Again

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.  

Citizenship

it was clear they were hungry
with their carts empty the clothes inside their empty hands

they were hungry because their hands
were empty their hands in trashcans

the trashcans on the street
the asphalt street on the red dirt the dirt taxpayers pay for

up to that invisible line visible thick white paint
visible booths visible with the fence starting from the booths

booth road booth road booth road office building then the fence
fence fence fence

it started from a corner with an iron pole
always an iron pole at the beginning

those men those women could walk between booths
say hi to white or brown officers no problem

the problem I think were carts belts jackets
we didn’t have any

or maybe not the problem
our skin sunburned all of us spoke Spanish

we didn’t know how they had ended up that way
on that side

we didn’t know how we had ended up here
we didn’t know but we understood why they walk

the opposite direction to buy food on this side
this side we all know is hunger

Nó, Actually, Soy Salvadoreño

“EL Sal-va-doh-RE-AN Salva-doh-RAN, Salva-DOH-RÍ-an,”
los mui-muis, we don’t even know what
to call ourselves. How to eat
a pupusa: ¿fork & knife? or
¿open it up & treat it like a taco? but
then, we’re betraying our nationalistic (read:
anti-black, anti-indigenous) impulse
to not mix with anyone else. ¿& what’s
with jalapeños in the curtido,
cipotes? ¿With using spicy “salsa”
instead of salsa de tomate? There’s too many
“restaurantes,” one side of the menu: Mexican,
the other, platos típicos. Typically
I want to order the ensalada, but then
they bring me an actual salad.
I say: cóman miercoles, they
want to charge me extra for harina de arroz. Extra
por los nueagados. There’s
nowhere I’d rather be most
than in Abuelita’s kitchen, watching her
throw bay leaves, tomatoes, garlic, orégano
into the blender, then chicharrón,
helping her sell to everyone that knows
she made the best pupusas
from 1985 to 2004. By then,
Salvadoreños became “Hermanos Lejanos,”
we traded Colón for Washingtón. By then,
Los Hermanos Flores looked for new singers
every time they returned from Los Yunaited
to San Salvador. Stay, no se vayan,
es-tei, no sean dundos, was all
those Salvadoreños could say.
We didn’t listen & came here
only to be called Mexican or Puerto Rican,
depending on the coast. We had to fight
for our better horchata, not
the lazy whiter one with only rice. & when
we didn’t want to fight
we tried to blend, speak more “Mexican,”
more ira, more popote, more
no pos guao. ¡Nó, majes!
¡No se me hagan dundos,
ponganse trucha vos!
When anyone wants to call you: Mexican.
You can just say: Nó,
actually, andáte a la M—
racista cara de nacionalista.