For Gilberto Ramos
15-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in the Texas desert, June 2014
Before you left, your mother
draped you with fifty Hail Marys,
a rosary of white wood,
a constellation she hoped might
guide you. But Texas does not
know these prayers. It knows
that desert air is thirsty
and you are made of water.
It drank you slowly. Your name
only linked to your body by the string
of Aves still around your neck,
the small cross pressing against your
wooden skin, the color of another cross.
You left home on May seventeenth
with one change of clothes and two
countries ahead of you, your brother’s
phone number hidden on the back
of your belt buckle so the coyote
couldn’t find it. The coyotes pray
in the language of extortion.
The phone number was found
by a Texas official whose name
your brother couldn’t remember. She called
and spoke in the language of bones. He translated
her news into “pray for us, sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.”
His prayer meant “brother,” a word
he kept moist, just beneath his tongue.
Joseph Ross ’80 is the author of four books of poetry, including “Raising King” (forthcoming, 2020), “Ache,” “Gospel of Dust” and “Meeting Bone Man.” His poems have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Southern Quarterly and Xavier Review. He teaches English and creative writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., and writes regularly at JosephRoss.net. “For Gilberto Ramos” was published in “Ache” (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017).
This poem appeared in the winter 2020 issue (Vol. 9, No. 2) of LMLU Magazine.