They Came Across

Standing in line,
two children and their mother
hold hands.
The girl has long black hair and dark eyes
that have seen too much, too soon.

She holds her younger brother
with one hand.
He is small, skinny,
his brown skin dirty, eyes glazed,
his stomach empty, so long.

Her right hand holds her mother,
who whispered last night,
“We’ll leave in the morning
and go
where it’s safe.”

Her mother’s lip is still swollen,
her cheek, bruised and purple,
her husband’s marks of ownership.
She moves slowly, while her daughter
watches and listens to everything.

She gives their names at the front of the line.
“You may cross the border,”they say.
In a moment of hope, of joy,
she squeezes
her daughter’s hand.

After they walk across, an armed guard says
“Your children will need to go over to that building.”
“Without me? Why?”
“But they are with me. We are a family.
I have relatives . . .”

The man reaches down,
tries to separate the hands,
ones that have brushed back hair from eyes,
wiped tears from cheeks,made food each day.
She pleads “Mi familia, mi vida,”

The guard takes them out of line,
to the side where no one can see.
He takes her arm, squeezes hard.
“This is the new policy
in this country.”

He wrenches hands apart,
pushing the children along in front of him.
When he opens the door,
the sounds of sobbing and voices calling “Mami, Papa”
leak out.

The mother covers her mouth with her hand.
Her daughter looks back at her,
accusing her, eyes becoming hard,
like stones,
only a tear betrays her.

~ We held a protest against detention centers at the border yesterday in Silver City, New Mexico, in solidarity with the other 700 protests around the country. We made signs and marched peacefully. I still wonder what it will take for these children who are already separated to be found, reunited with their parents and for these families to be treated justly.


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