The Patron Saints

By Balam Rodrigo

Storm in La Patrona, Amatlán, Veracruz—

a night lit by oil lamps,
the sun gone down, the electric light gone out,

rain beating its fury against the roof, sheets of water
pounded to shrapnel-clatter—

coffee made from tortillas burnt charcoal-black
and strained through a rag,

nothing but tortillas to ease hunger,
and beans boiled over the fire.

The fire lights up faces, warms the shadows.
The migrants shiver, cups in hand
like little hearth-fires of water,
sugar candle lights for the journey.

They barely speak, they stare at the ground,
at its cracks and crevices, the ash of charred wood
a snow-frost over their feet.

The train shakes the earth as it passes,
and roars deep, and kills the last of the sun.

Two Nicaraguans widen their eyes like street cats—

“Tomorrow—we’ll hop the Beast tomorrow—”

Still, they stand up to go.

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