She’s reading. Not that she hauled a book
to this spot west of Nogales where she waits
to cross the border into Arizona. It was on the chair
where the pollero left her. Pollero—chicken keeper.
When she was a child, they called the men who took
the poor across coyotes. That rang of romance.
Not this—a chicken in the jaws of a coyote, a chicken
in a cage, a chicken in a stew. She drops the book
to the floor and closes her eyes—her father paralyzed
by a stroke and her mother caring for him.
She fingers the stub of her first ticket—not valid
for passage, just a receipt, and not to Tijuana—
it’s too dangerous—nor to Juarez—that’s worse.
Maybe here where the hills roll to the north
and at the fence keep rolling, the grasses
waving in the wind—goodbye, hello.
The night and the book are equally long
and maybe that is a kind of luck. The moon
crosses the sky without a sound, going down
midway between dusk and dawn. The pollero
arrives with wigs, false eyelashes, stockings,
pants, and shirts. “Soy Virgilio.” He says.
“Stuff your wings into your coat. ¡Apúrate!.”
He hands her a Phoenix to Nogales and return
bus ticket with the first half used as if she had
gone for a weekend to walk among the stalls—
the pint bottles of vanilla and cheap guitars,
the straw hats with Mexico Alegre on the crown.
He also gives her an Arizona driver’s license
with her picture and name—Beatriz de la Garza.
A heron flies down a river course, folding its wings
to land in the shallows and wait on stick legs for a fish.
She holds the book up and opens her mouth.
“Yes,” the pollero says, “I know, I take names
where I find them. Last week it was Doroteo and Paco—
Dorothy and Frank en inglés—from The Wizard of Oz.
I take you across. Once you’re in Phoenix,
you’re on your own. Leave the book.”
At the fence under the glare of night-spotting lights,
she is surrounded by dogs, helicopters, border patrols,
saguaro cactus, hunger, thirst, and now, as she waits
to enter the traffic in undocumented souls, fear.
The dust rises and the night grows hotter. If only
she could stay home and read to her father, kiss
her mother, and go to bed where she’d turn out
the light and, again, let the book drop to the floor,
and it would mean nothing more than that.