Saturday Poem

Ode to the Soccer Ball Sailing Over a
Barbed-Wire Fence

…….. Tornillo. Has become the symbol of what may be the longest U.S. mass
 ……. detention of children not charged with crimes since the World War II
…….. internment of Japanese Americans.
  —Robert Moore, Texas Monthly

Praise Tornillo: word for screw in Spanish, word for jailer in English,
word for three thousand adolescent migrants incarcerated in a camp.

Praise the three thousand soccer balls gift-wrapped at Christmas,
as if raindrops in the desert inflated and bounced through the door.

Priase the soccer games rotating with a whistle every twenty minutes,
so three thousand adolescent migrants could take turns kicking a ball.

Priase the boys and girls who walked a thousand miles, blood caked
in their toes, yelling in Spanish and a dozen Mayan tongues on the field.

Praise the first teenager, brain ablaze like chili pepper Christmas lights,
to kick a soccer ball high over the chain-link and barbed wire-fence.

Praise the first teenager to scrawl a name and number on the face
of the ball, then boot it all the way to the dirt road on the other side.

Praise the smirk of teenagers at the jailer scooping up fugitive
soccer balls, jabbering about the ingratitude of teenagers at Christmas.

Praise the soccer ball sailing over the barbed-wire fence, white
and black like the moon, yellow like the sun, blue like the world.

Praise the soccer ball fling to the moon, flying to the sun, flying to other
worlds, flying to Antigua, where Starbucks buys coffee beans.

Praise the soccer ball bounding off the lawn at the White House,
thudding off the president’s head as he waves to absolutely no one.

Praise the piñata of the president’s head jellybeans pouring from his ears,
enough to feed three thousand adolescents incarcerated at Tornillo.

Praise Tornillo: word in spanish for adolescent migrant internment camp,
abandoned by jailers in the desert, liberated by a blizzard of soccer balls.

by Martín Espada
W.W. Norton, 2021