Sixteen
Remember feeling invincible.
Indestructible.
The cautions of elders slid off your ears, unheard.

Carlos Hernandez,
of the indigenous Guatemalan village, San Jose de Rodeo,
captain of his soccer team,
promising musician,
chaffing at the bit of manhood,
once played games of crossing the border.

I can see his father shaking his head.
His mother, knowing it was futile to show her concern.
He was the seventh one of her brood to turn sixteen.
But he did the work of a man.
Nothing could keep him from leaving her nest of no hope,
when the future was walking distance in his dreams.
He would follow his brother’s footsteps,
work in construction,
send money home,
a hero
a man.

Carlos Hernandez set off early that May with his older sister.
Hopeful days on the bus.
His future held Lady Liberty’s siren song,
beckoning him with outstretched hands.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
It was only a matter of time until she embraced him.

Crowded into a rubber raft across the debris-strewn Rio Grande.
Rounded up near Hidalgo.
Separated from his sister.
Sorted like garbage.
Imprisoned like a criminal.
Keep your head low.
Do as you are told.
Welcome to America!

The Flu
Carlos Hernandez was ready to slay dragons
when they crammed him into an overcrowded holding cell.
Someone nearby sneezed
and invisible viral droplets flew through the air into his nostrils.
Would it have made a difference if these migrant children
had been given a flu shot
before spending six days jammed together
in conditions the Humane Society would call inhumane?
Carlos wouldn’t complain – he would just get through it.
Fear was a foreign word
until it morphed into body aches, cramps, fever and chills.

Almost everyone has endured the flu, and survived.
You climb into your bed, pull the quilt over your head,
sip hot tea,
inhale the steam from each spoonful of chicken soup,
Clutch a box of tissues – the ones impregnated with lotion to soothe your sore nose,
Menthol rubbed on the souls of your feet,
A loving hand holds a cool cloth to your forehead,
A thermometer poised at the ready on your bed stand
for regular reassurance that you don’t need to call the doctor.

What do they do with a migrant boy with a 103-degree fever?
Quarantine him in a cement cell,
with a cement shelf to sleep,
a toilet
and a Mylar sheet.
Not one hint of comfort nor comforting!
Only a Tylenol,
and a directive never followed, to check him in 2 hours,
and a cellmate, himself too sick to help.
He writhes in pain,
vomits blood,
falls on his face to the floor,
stumbles to the toilet,
and over the next four hours,
quietly dies.

Vaccines
They tell us conditions have improved
for the unaccompanied children
who would rather face fear than hopelessness.
But even as flu season looms,
they refuse to vaccinate migrants for the flu.
Even with doctors standing at the detention camp gates
offering the shots for free.
They arrest the doctors!
And expect us to believe conditions have improved.
But the truth is,
when weighed against the opinions of the most base of voter bases,
the value of the lives of Carlos and his comrades
comes up short.

This is how genocide slips under the crack beneath the door,
blocking the light,
while never again,
happens again.

One Thought on “Triptych”

  • The trumpian era has brought the total disregard of humanitarian constraints. As the horror movie of decades ago, “The Omen” the child destined to become president of the usa, the devils offspring, has become reality. For those of us that were raised by good loving parents to respect every human being as an equal, we are now plunged into depression and wondering if we all can survive another year of hell. Only our kind parents voices and lessions gives us, their children encouragement and hope for a better future.

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