Javier Zamora

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.