Inside the Caravan at the Mexican-American Border 

By Karen Petersen

 When you carry all that you love with you
you do not feel the melting sun
or the scourging wind
or the sand that finds even the smallest spot
to place its hurt, often in an agonizing fashion.
Good people will hand you water and slices of apple
but you will wonder how much longer you can last.

When you carry all that you love with you
and your little sister’s heart beats against your chest,
you hold her tenderly, mi pequeño corazón,
with hands that are still warm from the heat of the desert
as your fellow travelers play cards to pass the time,
their bug bites and bruises small road maps telling tales
of their life in the caravan.

When you carry all that you love with you
as you stare down into a flat, grey puddle of water
you want to know if your face shows the life your body has lived
– if it betrays all the horrors that you have experienced.
And when you are given plastic flip flops with little white dots on them,
you hope they will fit and last until wherever the end is
as you look at your blistered feet, brown 'like burnt bread.'

And when you carry all that you love with you,
the miles no longer matter, those many hundreds of miles,
as you arrive hidden in a truck, sitting in a taxi, on a local bus,
your aching body but a shadow now through the windows.
For your arrival will always be at night, as a kind of secret,
and you will pick out a blue hat and a warm-looking coat,
from a large pile near the darkened church, and you will put them on.

Then the sun will come up, that burning sun,
invading your eyes, weary from lack of sleep,
and you will begin to walk again,
past the jagged mountains and endless farms,
walking towards those distant horizons of promise,
where at last you will be ready to surrender,
surrender to your fate, and hope that it is good.


 With thanks to photojournalist Alice Driver


KAREN PETERSEN has traveled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, her poems and short stories have been published in The Manzano Mountain Review in the USA, The Bosphorus Review in Istanbul, Antiphon in the UK, The Wild Word in Berlin, and A New Ulster in Northern Ireland. New work will be appearing in the Saranac Review in the USA and Idiom 23 in Australia. In 2015, she read "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the KGB Bar in NYC. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She teaches English Composition at NNMC.