Tuesday Poem

Nativity: For Two Salvadoran Women, 1986-87

Your eyes, large as Canada, welcome
this stranger.
We meet in a Juárez train station
where you sat for hours,
your offspring blooming in you
like cactus fruit,
dresses stained where breasts leak,
panties in purses tagged
“Hecho en El Salvador,”
your belts like equators,
mark north from south,
border I cannot cross,
for I am an American reporter,
pen and notebook, the tools
of my tribe, distance us,
though in any other era I might
press a stethoscope to your wounds,
hear the symphony of the unborn,
finger forth infants to light,
wipe afterbirth, cut cords.

It is impossible to raise a child
in the country.

Sisters, I am no saint, just a woman
who happens to be a reporter,
a reporter who happens
to be a woman,
squat in a forest, peeing
on pine needles,

watching you vomit morning sickness,
a sickness infinite as the war in El Salvador,
a sickness my pen and notebook will not ease,
tell me, ¿Por qué están aqui?
How did you cross over?
In my country we sing of a baby in a manger,
finance death sqauds,
how to write of this shame,
of the children you chose to save?

It is impossible to raise a child
in the country.

A North American reporter,
I smile, you tell me you are due
in December, we nod,
knowing what women know,
I shut my notebook,
watch your car rock
through the Gila,
a canoe hanging over the windshield
like the beak of an eagle,
babies turning in your wombs,
summoned to Belén to be born.

by Demeteria Martínez
from After Aztlan
David Godine, Publisher, 1992


Gila- Gila National Forest, New Mexico USA
Belén – Belén, New Mexico USA