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Monday, February 17, 2020


by Jen Schneider

Kevin Euceda, now 19 years old, an asylum-seeker from Honduras, has an emotional moment in December 2019, after some 900 days in detention at three detention centers. After hearing statements he made to counselors—that he thought were confidential—read back to him at hearings, the traumatized teenager chooses his words more carefully now. (Michael S. Williamson photo for "Trust and Consequences" by Hannah Dreier, The Washington Post, February 15, 2020)

In the darkness of the night and the safety of artificial lights, I shared my story. 
The hundreds of miles walked and waters crossed. Go ahead. Swim
I spoke of piles of memories, papers, lost lives, broken bodies, missing books, 
and torn clothing—including the cloth worn by my deceased cousin and sewn 
by the handiwork of my deceased mother’s pale, scarred hands—left behind. 
My calloused foot kissed the stone, and I fell. Hard.

Go ahead. Rise. Trusting the hands that caught, then bolstered, me, I complied. 
My words poured, pooled, and puddled around my person. Your head bobbed, 
a decoy, and encouraged me to swim to safety. Go ahead. Jump. A life vest, 
withs arm outstretched and encouraging, like the V that marks my forehead and maps 
my past - my own flesh and blood—I failed to realize I was in the deep end. 
Always have been. You, too. My lifelong fear of water consumed me, but I swam 
at your urging. Go ahead. Speak. Your superiors soaked my blood—yours, too—
and my language in a tissue of legal loopholes. Strangers twisted the rag, heavy 
with tales of my younger self, a person I neither know nor remember—Go ahead. Try.
—and dropped it in my lap. It stank. Still does.

The weight of my words lives on like bait and lure in deceptively choppy waters 
with a strong undercurrent. Go ahead. Float. Seeking a home base, safe land, in a sea 
that never calms. My words now a weapon, sharper than any before used, 
with finely seared edges and teeth that bite. Piranhas tear my younger flesh and chew 
my words at every meal, meeting, and moment. Go ahead. Pierce.
I lie before you. Empty. Broken. Alone.

Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.