Already Ghosts

by Margaret Randall

Because I want to help my momma,
because my step dad hates me,
because there’s nothing for me at home,
because I want a new life,
a new me.

Already ghosts, Perro and El Gordo,
childhood friends
their voices woven of wind
and milpas that pass too quickly
blurring cold distances of hope.

Expectation strangles the young face,
disintegrates in the throat
of the nine year old girl from Honduras,
the nine year old boy beside her
who adds Si Dios lo permite
each time she whispers her dreams.

They already know about the Beta Brigade:
humanitarian Mexicans in red trucks
who tend to rotting toes
and warn against the dangers
of traveling north,
voices of trust
in a place where trust sickens and dies.

Throwing their scant bundles before them
they run to board the moving ladders
scramble for a spot
on careening projectiles
charge lush Mexican landscape
and sad villages where vendors
who know what hunger is
hand up free tacos
wrapped in pure love.
Roofs of freight trains thick with men,
some women
and 100,000 children a year
speed toward the glitter – spangled country
where Maybe I can study,
find a job,
make money,
buy a house for Momma,
have a different life.

Mountains and fields weave a dreamtime
coiled inside death’s stranglehold.
If you let your guard down
a tree branch will take an eye
sudden trestle split your head
and throw your mangled body
beneath la bestia:
front – page photo
in tomorrow’s tabloid.

There’s a mission at Coatzacoalcos,
another in San Luis Potosí
six to a bed but they give you a blanket
and small plate of rice and beans
to pretend away the fear
while a preacher warns:
Don’t trust the coyotes
who will take your money
leave you to die on the desert
one out of three won’t make it
be careful of the federales.

Children, lonely and frightened,
a thousand kilometers on
sometimes they give up,
turn themselves in,
go home
to the sad Guatemalan village,
rutted lane of Salvadoran shacks,
Honduran mother who cries with joy
for the son come back alive
weeps in sorrow
because she knows he’ll try again.

Carlos’s last ride is a sealed coffin,
his body found on the desert
too decomposed
to comfort parents
who only want to see their baby
one last time.
Manuel has long been
a question with no answer
for the desperate family
who puts its trust
in the Virgin Mother and her Son.

A few will get lucky,
avoid the police trap at Lechería
organized crime at the border
La migra
and that insatiable desert
separating one last reserve of will
from the sheltering shadows
of some U.S. city

where they’ll learn new ways to survive
share a slum room
make more money than they’ve ever seen,
send some of it home:
tender ghosts among the poorest of the poor
in a country that needs their labor
and hates their guts.