Editor’s note: This week’s Poetry Corner features Javier Zamora, who was born and raised in La Herradura, El Salvador. At the age of 9, he emigrated to the United States to be reunited with his parents. He’s attended various writing conferences, including the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and one at The Frost Place. His chapbook, “Nueve Años Inmigrantes,” won the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Contest.
THE AMPUTATED YEARS
Mamá Pati tried to sing me to sleep.
The barrio called me their alarm. Neighbors lined up
in the clinic across the street while the nurse checked for fever.
Nothing wrong. All I was was a chillón, a crybaby.
Mamá Pati called me her ear’s fruit fly.
I didn’t let the barrio sleep for an entire year,
Barrio Guadalupe’s lost year. Backyard mangos begged God:
callá ha’ste chillón diosmío. Shut this crybaby.
Papá Javi had a baker’s sleep schedule.
In my barrio, bakers once baked bagels before 4 AM,
for gringos. Salvadorans hate bagels! There are no bakers
in my barrio now, and only one in the entire pueblo.
I’m nine now, and I’ve never seen a bagel,
gringos gone with the civil war. I don’t remember
how gringos looked; neither does my pueblo.
Before I was born, the dawn locomotion of troops
was the pueblo’s alarm. Then, mangos begged God:
callá ha’stos soldados diosmío. Shut these soldiers.
No one slept before my birth.
For two years after, still, no one slept.
GOD IN MY ZIPPER CROSSING THE SONORAN DESERT
My pant-zipper almost got stuck
on Arizona rancher’s wire-fence,
like all these Latin-American heads almost did.
La Vegas turns an ace in the river. Immigrants
all in, ace-less. At this, the Divine Hand zips
the heads. Some see snapshots of Purgatory
on that wire-fence. Others stay there. Near-death-
desert-crossing questions faith. Immigrants
misunderstand the cross. Someone shouts la migra!
We run from wire-fence. We’re sprawled on the floor,
avoiding the infra-red cameras. A ghost
behind some Sears window howls our story.
Most of these zippers will never see Sears.
What my zipper sees is the desert ground. A paralytic
desert doesn’t believe in God. Time passes
and our sense’s creases outlast the cold night. The migra
trucks leave. We stand and on the dirt, our zippers
traced crosses for each of us. My eyes close,
all our eyes close when we hear the Rapture—
helicopters overhead. Their lights, a foreign God
who’s forgotten us.
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