Illegal #2

by Sergio Ortiz
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place (tie), September 2009
Judged by George Szirtes


She makes it difficult
to ignore the wet clothes
on a man’s back

as he wanders into la migra’s
office for a 24-hour stay,
or a free jet ride home.

She’s too alarmed to remember
the two daughters left behind.

Umbrellas keep her in the shade
while officers bring tamarind flavored
snowballs to douse her dehydration.

They wick the sweat off her breast,
keep her armpits from staining,
stinking the robe.

Tomorrow she’ll rattle all this away
like cows shake off flies.


This is succinct, well shaped, the language high register but subtle and supple. "They wick the sweat off her breast" is nicely dropped in. And the subject is, of course, compassion and its lack but does not make a great dramatic gesture either way, retaining its distance without coldness, out of a kind of respect. --George Szirtes

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