what we took away

Steel bird,

Slowly disemboweled.

Tagged luggage,

Conveyed in loops,

Beneath fluorescent lights.

Footfalls stilled,

above asphalt and glass,

She ascends.

Her carry-on is a plastic bag.

Abandoned red backpack,

In a dark corner,

1800 miles away.

When they left home,

Gripping each other,

She walked beside

her mother,

Expecting to miss

The climbing tree.

Expecting to miss

The blue plastic chair

She’d carried into the courtyard

To watch her grandmother

Layer strips of beef

With bitter orange.

Expecting to miss

The collection of books

Too heavy to carry

Expecting to miss

The neighbor sounds

Outside her window

On days when

Danger stayed away.

She did not expect

To miss

The tiny red backpack

So carefully filled,

So painfully, each one

Chosen.

Which little doll?

Which photograph?

This one can go.

This one, stay.

“No te preocupes.”

“No tengas miedo.”

Her soothing voice

Reassuring those toys

Left behind.

She did not expect

To miss

Her mother’s lullabye.

She did not expect

To miss

Her mother’s voice.

She did not expect

To miss

The sound of her own name.

We took them all.

And gave her a plastic bag

A case file number

And a toothbrush.

We stood her in a line

With other hopeful, nameless—

Deciding:

This one, go.

This one, stay.

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