Cross by Jessica Covil

This, too, is my America: people wandering in the desert in fear of their lives. Teju Cole, “A Piece of the Wall”

There is a cross where her body
was never found.
Two wooden planks to say that
she once lay here,
a sacrifice
tortured by the sun
mourned by the ones who come now
to see where her body

It is we who betrayed her.
She, the way
the truth
the life
ended in a merciless desert
praying for water
bearing the sins of this world
like a child
hoping to be delivered.

Maybe she
cried out in a loud voice
or a feeble one, but
no one here has heard from her
the earth didn’t shake
but her loved ones say
it has shifted.
In the first few moments of waking
perhaps they see her,

The journey might have taken three days
but she is
not the first one we’ve lost
and days are spent searching,

Later a corpse–
maybe hers–
is called “desconocida.”

The word rolls off the tongue,
names thousands.

Una mujer,
denied three times
only to return.
Called by a piece of the wall
not built
where death is foretold.
She must have
known it herself.

And we,
not shamed by the money we’ve made
through our rumors
the blood we’ve spilled
or had spilled
vow to throw our coins
–not to a temple to remember
or a field to bury the dead–
but to a vaster wall.
A more complete refusal.

If we succeed
will the rocks split
where the next one falls?
will any rise
to cross the man-made wall?
or else demolish it.
The stretch of angry desert
is itself a cross
fingers entwining themselves
or drawing together
the head the heart the shoulders
the body made symbol.
The body may be lost
or maybe
a prophesy of that final gesture,
the eyes that scan the horizon
and settle on this,
the body of a woman unknown, lost
a cross placed where she
couldn’t cross