Letter to America by Juan J. Morales

One Poem

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Her clicking pen a nervous habit
responding to the inventory 
     bagged and tagged
from the desert,
every wallet and blanket gathered,
            fields of backpacks
abandoned, footprints vanishing
over the ridge.

Stacked in the morgues 
there is no counting 
            ghost bones picked 
white around the border.
She searches for the names
                        trailed off among
bleached rocks and cacti:
one may be a tía, a tío.

The pain of an invisible line 
            that may have been
     a few miles back
the whole time. 
                        In the warehouse
the volunteer sweats,
clicking for the ones she knows.

In the depths and dips 
of high desert,
                        in the name
of survival and hope, she prays
to the patron saint 
            of slim chances.




Juan J. Morales, maskedJuan J. Morales is the son of an Ecuadorian mother and Puerto Rican father. He is the author of three poetry collections, including The Handyman’s Guide to End Times, winner of the 2019 International Latino Book Award. Recent poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, The Laurel Review, Breakbeats Vol. 4 LatiNEXT, Acentos Review, Collateral, Salamander, and Pank, and is forthcoming in Poetry. He is a CantoMundo Fellow, a Macondo Fellow, the editor/publisher of Pilgrimage Press, and professor and department chair of English & World Languages at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Read Juan J. Morales’s first Letter to America, published on February 9, 2017, as well as two other poems, published originally in Terrain.org.

Header photo of crosses against border wall in honor of those who have died attempting to cross the border into the U.S. from Mexico by Rebekah Zemansky, courtesy Shutterstock.


Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.