In This Wild City

Migrants Under Texas Bridge Seeking Asylum in United States, September 2021

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
 

There is a tragic gap between the dream that was once America and the current migrant crisis.  Like so many complex issues facing our society any and all solutions seem to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. How does poetry connect to humanitarian issues like immigration?    Is poetry relevant anymore in informing and communicating the human condition?   If the Statue of Liberty was being erected in 2021 for the first time, what poem do you think would be selected to commemorate and honor it’s significance today? 


The Pink Crosses

by Amanda Auchter
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

In this wild city, we are bones
scattered in the valley’s grave. An apron,
a white tennis shoe, a face gone
missing. A mother leans over the dust

scattered in the valley’s grave. An apron
around her waist, on her way to work. The
missing. A mother leans over the dust
and carves her daughter’s initials. Her name

around her waist, on her way to work. The
bones wait to be found; there are always bones. She prays
and carves her daughter’s initials. Her name,
Veronica, and the others, EsmereldaBarbaraBrenda; our

bones wait to be found; there are always bones. She prays
to the gardens tethered to the field of pink crosses:
Veronica, and the others, EsmereldaBarbaraBrenda, our
roses, wild poppies, fragile blooms of morning glories,

You Already Know This

Amanda Auchter

The Moment

by Amanda Auchter

If I was asked how I felt when I watched
            you in death, I would explain the stone
pit in my throat, the hard swallow

in the air of your not breathing. When I found you,

I gathered the sheet from the closet
            to cover your body —how still
you looked, how asleep—but it was not enough.  

                      You already know this, I imagine,
how little I could manage—the flowered sheet, 

and after, how I sat on the porch in the August dark

as our father placed the sheet beside the back door.
            How he passed through

           grief in a way that I could not, my own
body vanishing into the field of the night. 


Decorating the Tombs: All Saints’ Day

by Amanda Auchter

After the wood engraving by John Durkin, November 1885

We bring our bread and fall flowers,

a table spread with rust linen,
forks and plates. We bring paper crowns,

a sheaf of wheat, press each against white-
washed tombs, offer our prayers, our baskets
of harvest: yellow chrysanthemums,

red coxcombs, wreaths of black glass
beads. Keepsakes in the glow

of our children’s hands, fields
of candlelight, lamp oil, the distant

burst of lightning. Each stone
a vessel we bring our mouths to, touch
and whisper, wipe clear of lichen, soot.

Around us, the city blurs in dusk: low blue

between the coliseum of houses, men
with their carts of ice, tomatoes. We lift

our spoons of pudding and don’t speak
of the rising river, fevers, how soon the damp
earth will shutter our eyes, dredge the backs

of our throats. How soon, too, the night
will come, the rats for our crumbs,

the water, the ruin, for our tender bones.