Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.”

Credit


Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Javier Zamora. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Author


Javier Zamora

Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador. He is the author of Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017).

Date Published: 2017-10-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/deportation-letter