My mother came to this country in the back of a pickup.
The only Moses leading this Exodus was a Coyote dressed as tar. Wetbacks cross rivers to get to their Promised Land.
My people swim because their Red Seas aren’t divided for them—
They play hide and go seek with border patrol checkpoints,
pray to La Virgen Maria as bullets are shot into their camouflaged bushes.
The fear of home greater than the fear of crossing death. Bodies floating in the currents, lungs collapsing,
climbing mountain tops, past volcano ashes, and serpent backroads. When they finally reach the top of the mountain,
they see the scattered city lights shining, “Aye esta America,” “There is America.”
Yet freedom like those lights is a mirage— miles away.
We all have a common ancestor with empty pockets
and a compass, seeking shelter.
We’re aliens to the aliens.
Heat has always been home,
but now it’s a reminder freedom is only a first degree burn.
The sun beats pulsing salsa as we tap dance
on antiimmigration dusted dance floors.
Marias carry their holy children in swaddled clothes,
in wombs that beat too heavy. Joses travel to foreign countries to work construction,
because calloused hands mean bread for communion.
Little boys named Jesus grow up with a shank in their back, with asphalt bruises from crucifixes they were born into. María, José, Jesús.
Mary, Joseph, Jesus.
Survival is a history in translation.
Survival is my fourteen year old mother
being stacked in the back of a pickup
refusing to cross her hands and accept death.
She crossed the mountain, the river, and the crooked fence, and said, “Por fin llegamos a casa.”
“We have finally reached home.”
Leslie is a graduate of Station Camp High School and was a member of the Middle Tennessee slam team this summer. She now attends Lipscomb University. Learn more at www.southernword.org.