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Images Cut Deep**

The following is an excerpt from Save the Elephants, my novel in verse. I share it in consideration of what happens before the desert, but mostly after.

I stare at my soup on the table.

Gloria stares at the map on the wall.

The desert yellow stretches

Its borders long enough to hide in

Like the Ivory Coast elephants

Or die with the snakes, coyotes and tarantulas.

I pick at the chicken from the bones.

Gloria picks at the stories of migrants around us.

Casetas teléfonicas

Fathers with children on their backs

Casas de cambio

Mothers with babies in their arms

Hospedajes. Comedores.

Teenagers unaccompanied

Some joining far away brothers

Some running away from local violence

Tiendas. Albergues. Cantinas.

Food and stories made for us

From family we don’t have.

I am careful with the plastic spoon.

Not to spill.

Not to stain.

Gloria is careful with her questions.

She doesn’t want to ask why.

She doesn’t want to ask questions

She herself won’t answer.

I listen to how each person at the table

Explain how they arrived at the table.

“Can you start organizing the library without me?”

Gloria stands up.

She pushes the peeling tape back to the textured wall.

“I have a doctor’s appointment.”

When she turns her back,

Pieces of the map fall again.

I can feel it.

Someone left behind at dusk.

The river crossing.

The highway crossing.

The dry riverbeds as natural highways.

I can feel it.

I can feel the breath of wind.

Through the slit of the window.

Through the slit of my eyes.

Lashes are clouds

Not bars.

Through the slit of my eyes

I watch the rearview mirror.




The desert disappears below our wheels

Blends into the sky.

The sky becomes

Another river



To cross.

“I’ve heard of many proyectos,” I began.

After the water ran down her face,

My confidence surged.

I face the woman with the elephant necklace

That means life.


“And they’ve always meant life,” I pose.


“Why are we counting death? Not even death, bones.”

We’re not counting deaths, not really.”

She unfolds her hands,

Adjusts the clasp of the necklace to the back of the chain.

“We’re recording deaths so other are reminded

All lives,


All stories


“I never imagined

Bones could do all that.”

The exam room

Has all the grays

Of elephant skin

To make me think of memory

Had none of the shine

To make me think of science.

The woman with the elephant necklace

Is in control of the room

She is a matriarch.

Her tools

Her Spanish

Makes me listen

To the names of bones

To the stories of people

Without names.


He made repeated chopping motions.


She carried heavy objects on her head


He spent significant time bent over


He kicked soccer balls


She made frequent fine motor movements with her fingers.”

The cause of death is mostly the same.

Broken bones here and there only sped up the dying process.

“I prefer to let the bones talk about life. The woman with the elephant necklace

Is in control of her emotions.

She is a writer and an artist of colors and texture

With the same movements in her fingers

That mine make when I move them over a guipil.

**Joshua: If their work lags, it is because they are not fed.

Moses: You look strong enough.

Joshua: I am a stonecutter. The Pharaohs likes their images cut deep.


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