Baggage Claim

Author | Jennifer Veláquez

"What are you doing in my country?"

the customs officer asks,
leafing through my blank American passport,

as if to say: "Why have you come willingly
into the arms of something your family has fought
so hard to escape?"

 

Some don’t get to choose which home
they leave behind.

What is it when the child returns
to the abandoned house, pulls out the key
they've been keeping inside—a treasure stolen

from their mother’s jewelry box—
and unlocks the door to the only home
they've never known?

"What are you doing in my country?"

my brother asks, laughing,
as if to say: it is not enough
to have El Salvador
in your veins,

you must spill your veins, too
in El Salvador, and watch
as the blood trickles down
your leg and onto the ground,

sprouting into tight tendrils that coil
around your feet, forever binding you
to the land, bound to carry it
wherever you go, but—

 

I could not give this place my childhood.

Maybe that is why I lose
my balance on this ground, stumbling
behind my mother's tranquil pace
as the plants carry her through

while I trip over the vines that grasp
at my ankles and I think: I no longer know which home

I’ve been trying to escape.

San Salvador, El Salvador


About the Author | Jennifer Velázquez is a Queer poeta en progress from Dallas, Texas. She is currently in her third year at the University of Texas at Austin studying Sociology with a certificate in Creative Writing.