Very topical poems on the immigrant experience. Javier Zamora is from El Salvador, and his parents left for the US when he was very young and he followed when he was 9 years old. He writes from the perspective of his parents and other people in his family on the savagery of civil war and the ordeals people like his family would undertake, crossing brutal terrain for the hope of a better life.
The book culminates in a long poem called “June 10, 1999,” which recounts in detail his own voyage to reunite with his family.
The following poem is less speciﬁcally on the theme of crossing borders (though it does refer to a kind of crossing) but was one of my favorites.
Instructions for My Funeral
Don’t burn me in no steel furnace, burn me
in Abuelita’s garden. Wrap me in blue-
white-and-blue [ a la mierda patriotismo ].
Douse me in the cheapest gin. Whatever you do,
don’t judge my home. Cut my bones
with a machete till I’m ﬁnest dust
[ wrap my pito in panties so I dream of pisar ].
Please, no priests, no crosses, no ﬂowers.
Steal a ﬂask and stash me inside. Blast music,
dress to impress. Please be drunk
[ miss work y pisen otra vez ].
Bust out the drums the army strums.
Bust out the guitars guerrilleros strummed
and listen to the war inside [ please
no american mierdas ]. Carouse the procession
dancing to the pier. Moor me
in a motorboat [ de veras que sea una lancha ]
driven by a nine-year-old
son of a ﬁsherman. Scud to the center
of the Estero de Jaltepec. Read
“Cómo tú,” and toss pieces of bread.
As the motorboat circles,
open the ﬂask, so I’m breathed like a jacaranda,
like a ﬂor de mayo,
like an alcatraz—then, forget me
and let me drift.