To cross México we’re packed in boats
20 aboard, 18 hours straight to Oaxaca.
Throw up and gasoline keep us up. At 5 a.m.
we get to shore, we run to the trucks, cops
rob us down the road—without handcuffs,
our guide gets in their Fords and we know
it’s all been planned. Not one peso left
so we get desperate—Diosito, forgive us
for hiding in trailers. We sleep in Nogales till
our third try when finally, I meet Papá Javi.




Mamá, you left me. Papá, you left me.
Abuelos, I left you. Tías, I left you.
Cousins, I’m here. Cousins, I left you.
Tías, welcome. Abuelos, we’ll be back soon.
Mamá, let’s return. Papá ¿por qué?
Mamá, marry for papers. Papá, marry for papers.
Tías, abuelos, cousins, be careful.
I won’t marry for papers. I might marry for papers.
I won’t be back soon. I can’t vote anywhere,
I will etch visas on toilet paper and throw them from a lighthouse.




When I saw the coyote—
I didn’t want to go
but parents had already paid.
I want to pour their sweat,
each step they took,
and braid a rope.
I want that chord
to swing us back
to our terracotta roof. No,
I wanted to sleep
in my parents’ apartment.




“You don’t need more than food,
a roof, and clothes on your back.
I’d add Mom’s warmth, the need
for war to stop. Too many dead
cops, too many tattooed dead.
¿Does my country need more of us
to flee with nothing but a bag?
Corrupt cops shoot “gangsters”
from armored cars. Javiercito,
parents say, we’ll send for you soon.




Last night, Mom wanted to listen to “Lulu’s Mother,”
a song she plays for the baby she babysits.

I don’t know why this song gets to me, she said, then:

“Ahhhh Lu-lu-lu-lu / don’t you cry / Mom-ma won’t go / a-way /
Ahhhh Lu-lu-lu-lu / don’t you cry / Pop-pa won’t go / a-way . . .”

It’s mostly other nannies in the class; it’s supposed to help
with the babies’ speech development, she says, mijo,

sorry for leaving. I wish I could’ve taken you to music classes.

She reached over, crying. Mom, you can sing to me now
was all I could say, you can sing to me now.


Photograph © Naomi

The Transition
To Live and Die in South Korea