(Spokane, WA, U.S.A.)
Nancy, you probably know I don’t have it all together;
I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the northern promised land, drinking over-priced tea
and lambasting men in my head for therapy
in my self-centered world of rhetoric and ostentatious intelligence
and I don’t know or ever seem to care where you are.
While I’m debating the finer lines of the injustice of students who feel oppressed and bereft of voice in academia,
is your own voice heard in that humid swamp-desert, or is it deafened
by flying bullets and the cries of widowed mothers whose husbands
are caught in the crossfire of the erstwhile enemy federales and narcotrafficantes?
Is your hair still short like it was the second month I knew you, when you
came home with your ebony curls chopped to your ears so that you could remove the lice you got from some other kid who, impoverished and soot-skinned like you,
couldn’t take a hot shower more than once or twice a week to keep his scalp from being overrun by it, like your country that is overrun with burning bodies?
Have you had your first kiss yet? Have you entered into womanhood?
I pray, when I’m a good enough friend to remember, that you don’t get pregnant
the same year you get your period, like so many preciosas in that colonia.
Do you remember when I put my arm around your shoulder in church? You probably felt safe and loved in a big sister’s arms—the gringa sister you never had, who spoke your language, who built your garage-sized yellow house with her friends, who made you bracelets and was generously requited with the few trinkets you had as a gesture of friendship…
I bet you never knew how much I felt loved by you, a brown-eyed, brown-skinned angel who found me in church one sweaty September afternoon and declared me hers as she gleamed with the sage-like smile of an innocent child.
Nancy, donde estas? I never heard from you two Christmases ago…I confess:
I’ve stopped sending gifts, and, at times, I’ve stopped praying for you, but when I
remember the God that sent me to you, or you to me, I pray as if my oxygen supply depended on it, and I cry out to the stars
over the trash-laden brush fields that will soon be burned by wide orange sunrises and white gunfire,
and I cling to the hope
that you live,
that you still love,
that you pursue your dreams,
and that you know, querida hermanita, as sure as the tears that were shed the day I left,
I will always love you.