Monday, March 11, 2019


When the two small angels, Jakelin Maquin and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez died after crossing the Mexican border, Brendan, at Oran's Well , and  Priscilla, of Priscilla's Zine and Bookstoreeach wrote a poem straight from their hearts to ours. How many times can our hearts break? These days, as many times as are required of us. It is hard to hold the pain of so much that is wrong. These poems bear witness to the plight of children in this world of social injustice. We read them and weep. And hopefully raise our voices on their behalf as well.

Jakelin Maquin

She was just a little girl - so
small, so everywhere,
expendable as crossing air.
Behind her the past soured
like bear rot in a trapper's lair: 
Ahead no future flowered,
no choices one would swear.
Just Papa’s hand through
a raw ribbed dawn, scrub
desert coiled everywhere.
Run, then hide; gasp and fear
of vipers ever nearer there.
Where would you go
but follow, trying not to lose
your little girl forever stare?
She died two days in custody
like so much desert fare.
A little girl, not worth saving
with American prayer.
Such small humanity
we feed to the nowhere
which keeps this suburb square.
The morning lifts from
the desert, leaving ghosts
tucked here and there.
Among them a little girl
which time ran past 
greedy for gilt Christian fare.
January 2019

Sherry: Her weary "forever stare" really gets to me, every time I look at her photo, Brendan. No child should have experienced what she did in her short life, to have that look in her eyes.

Brendan: Happy that you share the poem. Writing it felt like a civic necessity in response to your prompt. (I hope you add "This Poem is a Tired Grandmother" to complete the trio.) 

Sherry: I agree. So much of what is happening feels like our civic responsibility: to respond, to  bear witness, to protest.

Brendan: I've read accounts of the desert leading up to the border, how many have died in crossing there, and seen very sad pix of the things they carried, the things they left behind. (Like the child's backpack in the image.) In many ways these people are climate refugees, the political chaos resulting from a fast-heating environment. 

But of course the loss of the children is nigh unspeakable and hence so needful of our poems. "Morning in America" was taken from Ronald Reagan's 1984 pitch for the resurrected American Dream, the reactionary conservative impulse which is the racist mortar in Trump's Wall. But there's a ghost in the title, and it is "Mourning." 

Side note, when looking for pic of Jakelin, there were the familiar face shots, but it was the zoomed back picture of her complete with those tiny pink sneakers (unlaced, even) -- that broke my heart.

Best, thanks for all you do and care about and sustain.

Sherry: Refugees from climate change and dire poverty, yes, enduring incredible hardship in hopes of a better life. They must be shocked, on arrival, to find little hope here. Thank you, Brendan. Your poem touched my heart.

Priscilla also wrote about these two small angels. Her lullaby is so beautiful.

Felipe Alonzo-Gomez

Bad Poetry: Para los Angelitos Jakelin and Felipe

Last fall, after recognizing local tap water as the source of ongoing glyphosate poisoning, I drank the bare minimum of Aquafina to sustain life. My brain dried out. Hack writing became a chore. Feeling somewhat better now, as the pollution level in tap water subsides, I resolved to resume posting Bad Poetry. So I clicked on the link from the writing site Real Toads: What We Save, Saves Us.


What came to mind is an old song traditionally sung to children as a lullaby. So the lines below begin with that song, and go on from there:

A la puerta del cielo venden zapatos
Para los angelitos que vienen descalzos...

At the gate of Heaven they sell little golden slippers
For the little angels who had no shoes while living,
And other pleasant things, and other pleasant things,
and other pleasant things they never had.

And of course these little souls know nothing of money,
But the tears we shed for children turn into silver,
So for the pleasant things, for all those pleasant things,
the cost of those pleasant things is paid in full.

Little Jakelin Maquin, Felipe Alonso,
Were so young and looked so old, so weary and homesick...
Where they are going now, where they are going now,
where they are going now is like their homes.

A large part of Heaven looks just like Guatemala,
And another large part looks just like Nicaragua,
And other places, beautiful places,
heavenly places that men's greed befouled.

Grandparents, great-grandparents, pet dogs and chickens,
Meet them at the front gates of the homes they remember;
They play and tell stories, they hug and reminisce,
they tend their gardens and they sing old songs.

And who knows how long it takes for such little children
To remember that their homes were not quite Heaven,
Or that they were dragged away, 
when they would rather stay,
because of things they were too young to understand?

After all in Heaven no child cries for its mother;
If their mothers are not there, they have Mother Mary.
If their parents come in late, held back outside the gate
by their sins' dragging weight, all's understood.

But the ones who told their parents to leave their homelands,
Those who planned to use the children for their agendas,
Those people are not found, they never will be found,
their souls were never bound for Heaven at all.

Jakelin's home, where the family
subsisted on $5 a day

Sherry: I am struck by how Heaven must look like Guatemala and Nicaragua, where there is such beauty. I am so moved by this poem, as lullaby. May it comfort the grief of those who read it, living, as we are, in a world of social injustice that is purely man-made.

Priscilla: I learned "A La Puerta del Cielo Venden Zapatos" around age ten and always wondered where the original composer of this folk song imagined the money would come from. A metaphoric answer came to me when I looked at your report with the photos of the two children.

Someone commented at my blog, in an indirect and poetic way, that person thought this view of the afterlife is too Christian. It's not only Christian, but specifically Catholic, and specifically the way Catholics encourage children to imagine the afterlife, because that's the culture from which the song comes.

I remember being moved from house to house as the big trauma of my childhood (I wasn't abused in other ways so I suppose everybody has to feel traumatized by something). I think parents should think long and hard before dragging children even to a different house at the other end of the block. A different country? Where people speak a different language? Where people may ridicule their religion? Where the jobs their parents do well may not exist? ??? There may be conditions that would justify doing that to children, but they're hard to imagine.

Sherry: I imagine the daily desperation of their lives leaves them with limited choices. They can't know that there is now no welcome or help waiting for them at the end of their journey. 

Thank you, Priscilla, for caring about these children, and for your very moving lullaby. May they sleep well, they who barely got the chance to live. 

I had not thought of adding my tired grandmother poem about the children to this feature, but since Brendan requested it, I will include the link. Smiles. This Poem Is a Tired Grandmother. This grandmother is growing very tired indeed at the state of our world. Greed is winning at the moment. I have to hope we can somehow block its path, as it marches us past the tipping point of planetary survival.

Thank you, Brendan and Priscilla, for your beautiful poems and for speaking for the children so powerfully. Through your words, they will be remembered, will not fade away.

Do come back and see who we talk to next, my friends. Hint: it is one of our newer members, who is sharing her poems and her life in New Zealand with us.


  1. Oh I grieve those children and others like them who are still living but suffering. I'm a grandmother too and nothing makes me sadder than thoughts of our children's future in light of all the injustice, greed, cruelty and indifference some may have to endure. These poems are beautiful in expressing the sorrow we feel for these children and their families. I don't know what I would do in their circumstances.

  2. I cant begin to imagine the trauma and heartbreak - to the parents and to those children who cry uncomforted in their cells. I cant believe this is happening in North America. It is an outrage. Thanks for caring, Myrna. As grandmas, we know only too well, how children's suffering and trauma can stalk them as they grow and cause lifetimes of suffering.

  3. I wonder what we do to children all around the world... and there are those who dies, and there are those who grow up without ever being a child. I wish they could live a good life in Guatemala ...

  4. I spend a lot of time with children and cannot understand how anyone can allow this sort of thing to happen. Both poems touched me deeply.

  5. Beautiful, moving words that hit right to the heart and indeed bear witness for these innocent lives lost. Greed may be winning, but love and kindness are making a comeback and I for one will continue to champion them as it is all I can do....thank you all for sharing these important words!

  6. I have to hope policies will change - that people will insist on them changing - so immigration follows reasonable and humane guidelines and regulation, not what is currently happening.

  7. I haven’t been reading poetry for awhile. Well English poetry that is. Haven’t been writing poetry regularly too as the world rushes ahead. So much to do. Does it all count? Is it so important?

    But here I am this morning. Crying my heart out on my prayer mat.

    Thank you for the beautiful poetry, poignant and a reminder of our humanity. Our duty. Our tragedy.

    1. Ninot, it is so lovely to see you here. It is hard for loving hearts to hold the horrors that are going on. May human consciousness shift strongly to the light. I am so glad you stopped by.

  8. Impactful pieces - all 3 - poignantly rendered. The artificially manufactured so-called 'crisis' that spawned this very real crisis/tragedy has been a soul-crushing chapter in human history to witness, as it has unfolded.

    One would like to believe that there is a moral imperative to 'Save the Children'. In the case of these tragedies, I believe these children would still be with us, but for a cruel policy carried out with blundering, short-sighted ineptitude. The absence of human empathy is sickening. For shame ... no policy - regardless of the political climate - should countenance putting into place a system that increases the risk of harm or death to our most vulnerable little souls.

    Thank you, Sherry, Brendan and Priscilla for your good work on this important post.

  9. You speak truth, Wendy. Thank you for saying it so well. Ineptitude and cruelty is right. I am not sure why everyone didnt take to the streets in outrage. And they have "lost" 1500 children, dont know where they are. Thousands of broken hearts out there, that may never heal again.

  10. Here in Australia I had not heard of these children's deaths, but have now Googled their names and read the reports. Very sad poems for very sad facts! I feel heavy-hearted.

  11. I read each poem in silence, and was struck by grief. Whoever thought this would come to it has for so many years. People dying in the desert. No one should be blamed for trying to give their children a better life, we each would do the same. The peoms were filled with wonder, and sadness.

  12. Such moving poetry, all of you. I am reminded once again of 'man's inhumanity to man' and how these things in this world become the norm. Powerful poets. Powerful poems. Thank you, Sherry, for this feature and all the work that went into it. Thank you, Brendan and Priscilla, for sharing your poetry and your thoughts.

  13. We are now so innundated with bad news, we react, then the next day there is something else and we move on, we cant begin to cope with it all. But these two children were the strongest illustration of the brutality of this heartless immigration policies under this current administration that there could possibly be. I dont want to ever forget them, or that the suffering of children at the border is STILL happening every day. I agree, Annell, any of us would flee the conditions these families are escaping. And we would hope for assistance where we fled to.

  14. No words enough. Hope this world will see good days everywhere. Oh so much sadness! Thank you all for your words.

  15. Thanks Sherry for offering a place for these poems--yours is the essential third which we all feel deeply going forward amidst so much troubling news. Climate change will drive greater and greater masses to migrate, so border woes will become, I think, a defining ingredient of a changing world character -- how to stay open, willing, loving, amid such much rising water. Great work on this, and thanks again for the opportunity.

  16. Had not heard about these two kids but children around the world do need all the voices they can get to speak out for them. Like these fine poets. Until the root causes of this kind of migration - things like needless war and sharp income equality and human and environmental exploitation and climate change are addressed, how will this end?

  17. "Such small humanity
    we feed to the nowhere . . . "
    "And who knows how long it takes for such little children
    To remember that their homes were not quite Heaven . . . "
    "This grandmother is growing very tired indeed at the state of our world."

    It took me two days to read this through, such hurt, such folly, such tragedy! Thank you all.

  18. Such heartbreaking grief in these poems by Sherry, Brendan, and Priscilla. The pictures spoke volumes. I think about all the families living in such hopelessness, take incredible journies to have a better life, only to get here, and find they are not wanted, nor are they offered a chance to build something new.


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