Southwest Passage

My childhood was round and happy

filled with small flowers on trees,

jacaranda-purples and bonnet-blues --

colors with scent in them.


My legs carried me from hands to arms

that folded around me, held on, caressed

away cares; familiar blessings on my forehead

were moist thoughts; I was swaddled in kisses.


This was before adults became different,

when everyone who was someone

taller or thinner was still an extension of me --

an undifferentiated rattle in a palm;


or hands cupping my face like shells.

A self outside myself that spun me

round in circles until I was flying,

feet out, then caught, safe and warm.


This was before I grew to know maps

and borders, compass-point perspectives, miles

measured by inches; before frontiers

divided eagle from quetzal, snake


from serpent. Iíve outgrown a childhood

without dreams and left comfort to stand alone

in a riverbed where unscented lilies

tickle my shins like nettles.  I wade through,


over weeds and past the rotting driftwood

in my path.  Hollow shells crack like plaster.

I move toward an opposite shore,

uninhabited desert, unknown.


Arms poised, elbows out, my hands check

the balanced bundle tied with rope

thatís rasping burns into my back.  Legs sift

heavy water; feet filthy with silt pull free slowly.

This is an isolated passage. No one

set me on my feet and waits, hands out,

shaking and watching the first walk.

No one stands south of  me, urging.


No one waits north, arms out,

stretching forward for my arrival. 

No movie reels in my slow progress.

Only memories of my movements record this route.


Hold me like you used to.


© Christina Salme Ruiz