Deportation Letter


for my cousin Julia Zetino


The words Notice to Appear flap like a monarch trapped in a puddle.

Translation: ten years in a cell cold enough to be named Hielera.

If not that, a plane with chains locked to her legs. My aunt swam across

the Río Bravo twice to see her second daughter born in Greenbrae.

¿Why can’t my sister come here? asks the one who speaks English.

The monarch’s beaten, but it won’t listen. Since nothing’s wasted,

it might get eaten, it will nourish ants already gathering.


It was a hill like this. I was tired. I couldn’t keep running and fell. If it wasn’t for

the women who went back to pick me up from the shore, I wouldn’t be here.


Somewhere along here there’s a bridge. A cactus-pear bridge, red

like: the dirtiest sunset, Gila monster hiding, leftover sardines in tin.

¿The hibiscus sprouting? ¿Bougainvillea? One daughter wakes

and sees them and the volcano, and fire flowers through her window.

She’s never seen the bridge her mom isn’t afraid of.


My aunt, twenty-five years selling pupusas near that pier, ten and counting

cleaning houses, baking bread, anything in Larkspur. Most people

in La Herradura haven’t seen their parents. Her daughter Julia, over there.

Here, her daughter Adriana takes the bus to school every day.


The first try we were already in that van and La Migra was chasing us. The driver

said he was going to stop, we should open the doors and run. There was a lot of trucks.

Sirens. Men through the speakers. I got to a bush and hid. One dog found me.

He didn’t bite. He just stood next to me till one gringo handcuffed me.


This beach, these hills, are pretty. It looks like La Puntilla, except it’s cold.

I wish Julia was here. Javier, take a picture of Adriana and me. I’ll send it to Julia.


It’s complicated. Mamá me dejaste, decí que vas a regresar, I said, at night

on that same bed you sleep in now. Same bed next to the window

from which you see the lemons, the custard apples, the bean fields,

then the volcano. I’m sorry none of us ever saw you draw butterflies

like we see Adriana draw them, with the caption: “the butterflies

were going to save the world from tornado. And did.”

Javier Zamora is the author of Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, September 2017).

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