La Mano

For the more than 60,000 children from Central America who cross the border unaccompanied.
With lines from Maya Angelou and Richard Wilbur

Arcing above our apartment building,
          above the rousing city and green skirts
of the San Salvador volcano, a flock
          of wild parakeets comes to roost
outside our window; my nine-month son
          rests his head on my chest and all I want
is to draw the curtains, but he’s coughed
          all night and now his breathing
is slow, near sleep, though his eyes snap open
          with each squawk. I imagine the parakeets
preening their emerald feathers, joyful in their ceremony
          of clacks and trills. They are not musing
the capriciousness of nature as I am; they don’t know
          five thirty am, only that the sun has tinged
the mountainsides gold and that this alcove echoes
          their welcome beautifully. The wild parakeets tap
at the windowpane and my son stirs,
          raises his sleep-etched face to mine.
Together we slip past the curtain and discover
          seven green parakeets, perhaps a little smaller,
their feathers scruffier than I had envisioned.
          Two squabble over a prime niche and the stronger
one comes towards the glass, wings unfurled,
          fat tongue thrusting from his open beak. I want
to unlatch the window and sprinkle seed, lure them
          to perch on our shoulders and arms, anything
to make them stay longer. Instead, my son, rooted in
          the things unknown but longed for still—
greets them with the slap of an open palm to the windowpane,
          and in a clapping of wings
they leap from the narrow corridor at once, a raucus fleeing,
          with headlong and unanimous consent,
a disappearing stain, a distant murmuration
          swallowed from sight.

From Matria (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Alexandra Lytton Regalado. Used with the permission of the author.