The wet sweeps across
the little square screen of the pregnancy test
like slow rain entering from a distance.
For five minutes, I sit without looking.
I sit and look at the pinched lines
on my stomach from my first pregnancy,
stretchmarks, darkened spots, waves of flesh
a different landscape from the rest of me.
My daughter saw my stomach the other day
while dressing. She traced the lines,
curved her tiny finger around me as if she were
tracing the sun, the moon, her life.
Ima’s tummy is wrinkled like a bath toe, she said.
After exactly five minutes,
The river is a language of movement,
a horoscope, a decision, a fact.
A little stick of plastic.
I sit alone
with the knowledge of generations
until I decide to open the door.
The waiter’s fingers scoop
up the stem of my glass,
take it away.
Lucky one, restraining, a second time.
Besha’ah tovah, they say.
All should proceed at the right time.
Across the table,
she orders, though, and will pay.
Sangria or margarita, large and fruity.
Her glass turns from carefree
to pain as she takes a drink.
At her home, the door
to the second bedroom remains cracked
open. The walls painted light green
a holy nursery in suspense.
Eyes gravitate toward her stomach,
easy gossip, so obviously flat.
She looks to the ceiling.
How are you?
I see an earthquake
in her eyes.
The impossibility of hiding.
She is swimming by the month,
squeezing my hand
under the table.
For Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and Angie Valeria
My eyes stop at the photograph,
the black ink, a brown border river
swaying with the wind over beer cans
and a baby tucked inside the shirt of her young father.
They washed up into the muck, the story says,
arms around each other, a team,
the child just a father’s heart outside his body.
In the place between war and power,
between hunger and a future,
they were caught by more than treacherous waters.
My eyes cannot move from this photograph.
I stare into his baby, find my own
still building blocks in the bedroom.
I straddle the Rio Grande,
see desperate faces on both sides of humanity.
I catch a flicker of light, a fish’s slippery scales,
as it darts from border to border, these waters
a wordless home of life and cold blood.
I stretch my body across the river
to weep the current of this long season,
feel the summer sun strike down one
organ, one moral, one generation,
one hate, one breaking morning
for my children to grow from.
I hold on to my children. I cry
into their hair.
Inside the reeds
is every American
stuck between the hip
of a migrant father
and the heart of a child
in the riverbank
kissing the land.
A Temporary Flame
The pink sunset leaves the world
at the same rate as wax.
My hands circle
Even my tears
And the extra seconds I wait
to remove my hands,
to expose my eyes to my flames.
My daughter wants to know why
there are so many things to cry about
on the Sabbath.
We take down one barrier,
build a new one.
The children at the border wait,
rest inside my closed eyes
with witnesses, families, victims
and everyone else crying on front page news this year
from hate and crimes,
Prayer in America is a white taper Sabbath candle
lowering itself, disappearing into darkness,
becoming new again next week.
Like the Shabbat table
I revolve my life around.
My daughter tells me it is time
to put my hands on her head,
to bless her with the names of matriarchs.
Ye’varech’echa Hashem ve-yish-merecha.
You cannot extinguish
candles from the night,
knowing where your children are,
how many bodies will be sacrificed.
Jamie Wendt is the author of the poetry collection Fruit of the Earth, published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company and winner of the 2019 National Federation of Press Women Book Award. Her poetry has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, including Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility, Lilith, Raleigh Review, Minerva Rising, Third Wednesday, and Saranac Review. Her essays and book reviews have been published in Green Mountains Review, the Forward, Literary Mama, and others. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska Omaha. She teaches high school English and lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.