Remain in Mexico

This poem originally appeared in eMerge and was inspired by my volunteer work at the southern border, and the impact of the “Remain in Mexico” policy on asylum seekers there.

there is the Rio Bravo, a green viper
you could ride away from the tent city
but for remembering Oscar’s failed swim
baby girl tucked in his shirt, wriggling
gulping, the scent of her fine hair dissolving
the unseen currents pulling them down then up
never enough up to keep breathing

so you and a thousand like you
remain in Mexico, alive
in the plaza at the foot
of the Gateway International Bridge
your bed a yoga mat on the street
the August sweat salts your skin
spiders and flies gnaw it all night

when you went north from Honduras
you imagined a house
the skies of America the roof
instead, home is this concrete plaza in Matamoros
barricades and Porta Potties in rows
cars and trucks rumble across the border
day and night, free

church people from America
bring pizza, tampons and Pampers
someone’s old shoes
hotel soaps, crayons, wipes

you bathe in the river
beneath its coy surface
you hear its dark hiss
it devours and dirties
ignorant of God
answerable to none

you can’t cross the bridge
you can’t swim the river
you can’t use the tampons or the Pampers
the blood is gone, the baby is gone
you just stay alive
fume at the river
Remain in Mexico