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Monday, May 07, 2018


by Mary K O'Melveny

For several years now, Central Americans seeking to flee violence in their countries have banded together around Easter to cross into Mexico, some to stay there and some to take a chance on applying for asylum in the United States. They have joined forces in “caravans” for safety and to attract attention to their plight. Few in the United States have paid much heed. Until President Trump did, opening another ugly chapter in his anti-immigration crusade. . . . Against that hysteria, a few facts are in order. First, the caravan is hardly an anarchic and lawless endeavor. It is a group of desperate people fleeing, in accordance with internationally accepted rules, the very real horrors of the “northern triangle” of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, one of the most violent regions in the world. Under international treaties and its own laws, the United States is obliged to allow foreigners inside the country or at its ports of entry to apply for asylum. —The Editorial Board of The New York Times, May 2, 2018. Photo: CNN.

When is a caravan a final cortége?
We watch these voyagers limp walk
toward El Chaparral, cavalcades
clutching plastic bags, blankets, hands of
children.  As they march, they talk
of losses along the way, the death shades
that follow them like fellow travelers.
Others who track their route call them bands of
lawbreakers, sneer at ways life unravels
for those in perpetual vagabondage.

When is a caravan a carnival?
those cynics say, as they peer at screens
where misery is displayed between ads
for cars and drugs to stave off madness.
Some crusaders waved flags, screamed
to supporters across plazas, so glad
for a reason to stop marching.  Sadness
infused them with light like haloed beams
from a Delarosa Madonna, as the vastness
of their dispossession made them worshipful.

When is a caravan a transmigration?
In the name of God, all things are possible
said a man fleeing from gangs and guns.
In the name of love, I pronounce you wife
and husband said the Tijuana priest
to four young couples, their futures improbable.
The hour of my deliverance has finally come
said a teenager reciting ways that her life
had been squandered, her friends all deceased.
Their choices are simple – rescue or damnation.

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals.  Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age will be published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2018.