We sat up
on our towels
like dogs at attention
to a yelp across the sandy distance,
woken too late by some commotion in the water.
At a house down the beach,
guys on a deck call toward it,
words swallowed by the ocean expanse.
I think I recognize an older man in a sarong
from off-off Broadway Shakespeare,
failing to project.
I picture running, diving, tearing through the sea,
finally acting on that lifeguard
certification from so many years ago,
but sit still
as a helicopter swarms in,
blades spinning, ropes hanging,
then again on the beach spewing…
Those who survived the blasts and who were strong enough for the journey trekked south to the border to try and escape the fallout. They searched for the few remaining gaps in the wall, tempted the arid desert, dared river currents, offered bribes at the checkpoints. Some were arrested, some shot by citizen police paranoid about radiation. They hopped trains, walked by night, relied on rumors of safe houses.
Consuelo Pinto, a religious elderly woman, was said to harbor gringo families. The one that arrived after dinner that night now slept on the living room floor under blankets she provided. Filthy, she thought, as she stood at the sink washing out the few things they had brought with them, the changes of underwear already soiled. Consuelo pulled from the man’s rucksack a dirt-caked pair of socks, a crusty bandana, an orange peel, and a threadbare red cap with the English words she recognized from the TV not even a decade before, “Make America Great Again.” She knew what it meant, more or less. She had heard stories from a few in town who returned again after leaving years before. …