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By Christine Stoddard
The black of his mouth in the alleyway that night was blacker than black--
his tongue lapping at my mention of money, eyes onyx flecked with amber.
We cut a deal, and he knew my name, my family, mi colonia, mi vida.
Before I left, he pressed a dead lizard in my hand and whispered, “Ojo, güera.”
And I walked fifty paces to the bus stop, counting each step and praying:
Dios te salve, María. Dios te salve, María. Dios te salve, María.
When the camión rumbled toward me, I pushed a coin through the slot
and took my seat, the same seat where my brother had been sitting that day
when the soldiers snatched his lunch pail and kicked him to the floor
like the sort of children who kill birds, tearing them up feather by feather.
“My son is sick!” he cried, and they bashed his head against the pole.
“I have a wife,” he whimpered, and they bashed his head against a seat.
The anciana one seat away flinched, but kept her gaze on her bare feet.
“My son...” he heaved, “will die and my wife will starve if I join you.”
So they beat him with their guns until he choked and spat blood.
They called to the driver and jumped off the bus, laughing.
And your brother came to you that evening with eyes like plums.
And you promised that you would help him cross the border.
Tonight the bus, though empty, bears the scent of the coyote man.