Javier Zamora - Unaccompanied
Hold it to your ear. I’m tired
of my children leaving. My love for you
shatters windows with birds. Javiercito,
let your shadow return, alone,
or with sons, but soon.
-from Abuelita Says Goodbye
This collection, both beautiful and painful, traverses generations in five parts. It begins with the speaker as vulnerable, 9-year-old boy crossing from Guatemala through Mexico to the United States. The second part delves unblinkingly into violent national and familial histories; the third and fourth parts then continue to tell the stories of Javier’s family and friends, often from their perspectives. The fifth part comprises a single poem, fractured as a flashback, centering on the memory of Javier’s first plane flight, the last part of his journey to reunite with his parents.
What I love about this book is its dedication to undocumented immigrants, its solidarity with survivors of trauma inflicted by geopolitical forces that intersect with interpersonal relationships. It’s not an easy read, but gorgeous lines do soften the harshness of the subject matter without minimizing it.
Check out the Undocupoets campaign and fellowship co-founded by Zamora. In 2015 the campaign successfully petitioned leading literary publishers to remove the requirement that writers possess U.S. citizenship. The fellowship supports poets who are undocumented with costs related to submission, publication, and amplification. You can learn about the winners, listen to the Undocupoets on Commonplace, and support the fellowship with a donation.