as a child i watch mami sit in limbo

with other righteous people & infants who were not
drowned. put there by a wrathful country who thinks
itself a god. a tiny flame gnaws at the border
of mami’s dress. she puts it out with her palm.
here, they take her fingerprints & know the shape
of her hands. at the front desk a lady tells her i am
sorry ma’am, but your paperwork was misplaced in the mouth
of a whirlwind. we’ll have to restart your application
& mami sits inside that somber room for another two
years. on the wall, a picture of the president looks
over everyone. mami’s stay is provisional but she is terrified
of how law can be read & carried out. how under
different eyes her step on the soil becomes
unlawful. she sits stiff in a foreign plastic
chair. unable to swim back across a rusted river pushing
two bodies away from one another. i am from here,
but mami is my first home. i don’t know how to hold
anything—can be taken.

Alfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Vinyl, PEN Center USA's Rattling Wall, & elsewhere. He lives in North County San Diego.