by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider

I carried my bones across the river and into the arms of the border patrol.
I laid my child in the hollow between sand-hills where she would be hidden.
I placed her in the quiet shade of a cactus where the little wren would sing to her.
I carried her on my back when the wind drove sand into our faces.
I tore her from the powerful arms of the river, and up the far bank.

Now she is lost in the long white hallways,
wandering in the echoing rooms and corridors.
The vultures have carried her bones to a far-off place,
and all I can hear is the screaming of sirens.

The sound fills up my bones.
There is no color but sound,
no feeling but the wailing of sirens,
the screeching and scraping,
the fierce clang of doors,
the cold bars of cages.

I carried my child to the river and now I am empty sky filled with ash.
My dreams have fled across the desert like birds.

There is nothing in this hollow place but sirens and slamming doors
and questions, and a wailing that will not be silenced.

The gods have all died, blown across the sand like so much ash,
fled deep into soil like the water that has gone from this place.
Mother Mary, who sheltered us, is cast into a cage, and her child
is walking alone in the maze of hallways where she cannot reach him.

Where now is the mother? Where is the child?
Where is the voice that will call to me through this cacophony?
Where is the map through this desert?
Where is the red thread to follow in the wilderness?
The end is here, and all the little birds have flown beyond the river.

I carried my bones across the river and the waters did not close about me.
I carried my child through the desert and now my story has ended.
The ashes swirl and eddy in the wind, borne into the raging arms of the river.

This is the end. This is the end. This is the end.

(Tenth Place: Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards 2018)