They Came Across
by Elise Stuart
Standing in line,
two children and their mother
The girl has long black hair and dark eyes
that have seen too much, too soon.
She holds her younger brother
with one hand.
He is small, skinny,
his brown skin dirty, eyes glazed,
his stomach empty, so long.
Her right hand holds her mother,
who whispered last night,
"We'll leave in the morning
where it's safe."
Her mother's lip is still swollen,
her cheek, bruised and purple,
her husband's marks of ownership.
She moves slowly, while her daughter
watches and listens to everything.
She gives their names at the front of the line,
"You may cross the border," they say.
In a moment of hope, of joy,
her daughter's hand.
After they walk across, an armed guard says,
"Your children will need to go over to that building."
"Without me? ¿Por qué?"
"We are a family.
I have relatives . . . "
The man reaches down, tries to separate hands,
ones that have brushed back hair from eyes,
wiped tears from cheeks, made food each day.
She pleads, "Mi familia, mi vida."
Her daughter's grip tightens.
The guard takes them out of line,
to the side where no one can see.
He takes her arm, squeezes hard.
"This is the new policy
in this country."
He wrenches hands apart,
pushing the children along in front of him.
When he opens the door,
the sounds of sobbing and voices calling "Mami, Papá"
The mother covers her mouth with her hand.
Her daughter looks back at her,
accusing her, eyes becoming hard,
only a tear betrays her.
* * * * *
When Elise Stuart moved to New Mexico in 2005, her heart quietly opened to the desert. She found beauty in the river, the rocks, and in the way small, yellow flowers grow in arroyos. Her writing was revived, changed, from living not far from the Gila, in the southwest corner of the state.
She was named Poet Laureate of Silver City, NM in 2014-2017 and gave over one hundred poetry workshops to young people in Grant County schools. Students designed poem flags, expressing their own work, and the flags were hung in coffee shops, libraries and in old folks' homes.
In the spring of 2017 her first collection of poems was published, Another Door Calls, which tells of her intimate relationship with the natural world. In the summer she wrote about the most arduous and meaningful relationship of her life, and published My Mother and I, We Talk Cat. She continues to write poetry and short stories, while waiting for rain.