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Sunday, July 03, 2022


by Dick Altman

The death toll of migrants who died after they were abandoned in the back of a tractor-trailer that was discovered Monday in San Antonio rose to 53 on Wednesday… —CBS News, June 29, 2022
The land of the free...
I write this today – in America –
thanks to grandparents who heard
in heart and spirit that phrase echo
in Russian – Yiddish – perhaps
even German – Echo as they escaped
the poverty and oppression of Eastern
Europe in the 1900s – crossed mostly
by foot the continent – to land
at the magic portal of Ellis Island –
opening a door to life that until
this moment existed alone in letter
and rumor and what the mind
conjured as America
The land of the free... 
From lowlands – highlands – jungles
and shores they came two days ago –
walking – struggling – like my forebears –
this time from Mexico and South America –
leaving mothers and fathers – leaving birth’s
land and language – leaving with visions
that America would somehow – as it had
in the past – open its arms – offer – as it
had in the past – another chance at life –
Except the door – which had for
decades swung so freely – creaked on
its hinges –budging barely an inch
The land of the free... 
How many times did the refrain echo
in the minds of the sojourners – who –
no longer on foot – stood packed
in an airless – overheated subway
car of a semi-trailer – sworn to open
America’s locked heart – How many times
before the refrain turned from dream into
breathless prayer – How many times –
as one by one – the precious cargo lost
consciousness – calling – screaming
to the heavens – crying out to America’s
indifferent soul
The land of the free... 
Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, The New Verse News, Sky Island Journal, and others here and abroad.  A poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems. His work has been selected for the first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry forthcoming from the New Mexico Museum Press.