Sunday, June 17, 2018


When they first began to walk north Jesus tried to walk right behind his father, but he was too slow and his father turned back to pick him up.  They were on a trail he knew, but soon they branched off to some unknown track.  The trees and bushes were thick around them, but even so his father stopped now and then to listen.

It was those men -- that's who he was listening for.  The ones who came one night.  His mother had gone to the door to see who was out there and they pulled her from the house.  She was screaming but instead of his father going to her, he grabbed Jesus and shoved him out a window in back -- then climbed out, too.  There were too many men for his father to fight.  They would only have killed him.  

Jesus didn't understand what happened to his mother.  From the brush he saw her clothes with bright red patches, but he couldn't tell whether she was in the clothes.  Anyway, he didn't really want to know.  But he tried, because he wanted his mother, wanted her arms and soft bosom, wanted her voice -- so much wanted her voice.

The house was gone.  They had burned it, those men did.  Clothes or food they might have brought along were gone.  Father and son just left.

At first on the trail he watched everything, esp. the birds and animals that chattered at them, raced alongside, made warning noises, then left.  After a few hours he slept in his father's arms.  He was a strong man who didn't talk much, but he made sounds.  The boy didn't wake until it was almost cold and certainly dark.  His father was on the ground and he was on top of his father with his father's arms around him.  He felt almost safe.

Things went on this way for days.  He so loved his father's salty smell, his damp neck, his swinging gait.  A few other people joined them but they didn't talk much.  One among them sang softly.  Another one carried a guitar on his back, the way one might carry a child.

Then everything changed.  They were with a lot of people, a confusing crowd, all talking at once.  Everyone was excited and they said, "Port of Entry" or America.  They were by a river and talked as though the other side of the river were a blessed place where people were safe and had enough to eat.  But to Jesus, on his father's shoulders with his little hands holding onto his father's slippery forehead, both sides looked the same.

When it was all over, men in uniform grabbed Jesus to take him away, forcing him away.  His father tried to hang onto him but they used batons and shouted.  Jesus was terrified that next he would see his father's clothes on the ground, splashed red, but he didn't.  Just heard his father calling his name.

The men took him and a lot of other kids into a big building, very cold, and separated them into groups behind cyclone wire.  They assigned each a thin pallet on the cement floor and gave them a big crinkling piece of something like tinfoil that was supposed to keep them warm but didn't because the big building was very cold, wind blowing in from vents instead of windows because there were no windows, just flourescent lights.  No one explained anything.  The food was strange -- he didn't recognize it and didn't like it.  His stomach already hurt anyway.

The pallets were separated in rows.  Some of the kids hitched theirs over next to others so they could get the comfort and warmth of other bodies, the way their lives had always been.  They could even whisper.  But the guards made them separate again.  These people believed in separation.

Now the emotion began to catch up with him: grief, anger, depression, desperation, despair -- all in a tumble, unrecognizable, unmanageable.  He began to sob.  This "America" was a terrible place.  He longed for his father.  His voice calling "Jesus."  He slid into tangled sleep.

1 comment:

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Brian Mark Hennessy Retweeted Rachel Clarke:

In the first home I scream for six weeks. Then I am moved to another family, and I stop screaming. I give up. Nothing around me is known to me. All those around me are strangers. I have no past. I have no future. I have no identity. I am nowhere. I am frozen in fear.