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Friday, January 25, 2019


by Steve Dieffenbacher

A group of 376 Central Americans was arrested in southwest Arizona, the vast majority of them families who dug short, shallow holes under a barrier to cross the border, authorities said Friday. The group dug under a steel barrier in seven spots about 10 miles east of a border crossing in San Luis and made no effort to elude immigration agents. They included 176 children. The unusually large group was almost entirely from Guatemala. They were taken to Yuma after entering the country Monday. —KTLA, January 18, 2019

For years in our childhood
              we came upon them
in barrancas and bajadas,
              curiosity in our hearts,
their huts huddled
              in foliage.
streams running below
              with rocks
to promises of water,
thatched on land
              they’d never own,
children staring,
wearing only a shirt.
              Behind them, always
a dirt floor under bare
crude mats and pots,
              an emptiness
no rapist or killer would touch.
              On buses
the women sat stone-faced
              with baskets,
black beans and plantains to sell,
              men outside
bent over bundles of sticks
              faces in shadow.
Now the people stretch north
              from fear to fear,
faith lost in the known places
              they never
wanted to leave behind
               just to live.

Steve Dieffenbacher lived in Latin American for more than a dozen years during his childhood, most of them in Central America. His full-length book of poems The Sky Is a Bird of Sorrow was published by Wordcraft of Oregon in 2012. The collection won a ForeWord Reviews Bronze Award for poetry, and a poem in the book, “Night Singer, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico,” was named a 2013 Spur Award poetry finalist by the Western Writers of America. He also has three chapbooks: At the Boundary (2001), Universe of the Unsaid (2010), and Intimations (2018). He lives in Medford, Oregon.