“American Border Study: Two Bodies in a River” by Jed Myers

Jed Myers


Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, Rio Grande, Matamoros, Mexico

We’ll recall her small arm on his neck.
We’ll forget them there in the shallows.

We wonder at the black cloth they share.
We don’t get it was how he held her.

We see clearly her short red pants.
We miss the pink disposable diaper.

We note the bamboo stalks on the shore.
We grow our bamboo along the link fence.

We see sun in the river’s slow ripples.
We have no fierce current here in the frame.

We’re touched their dark heads wind up together.
We are spared their still-eyed stare.

We’re shocked the camera shot them in the back.
We’re not especially surprised.

We’re living the lives they might have.
We haven’t been breathing water.

We understand it’s father and daughter.
We don’t have our noses in the mud.

from Poets Respond
June 30, 2019


Jed Myers: “For all its shocking immediacy, an image of tragedy on our southern border seems to embody our burned-out distance. The drowned father and little daughter are casualties of our country’s deep currents of fear. The truth that we’re all Americans north and south is lost in the hubbub of nationhood. We take the river as border, denying our deeper unity. I hope my poem holds and conveys the embarrassment of our self-distancing.” (web)

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