(patos y mojados)


the first time i heard wetback, i thought ducks?
i practiced the line from bill to head to tail.
if waves represented water no tenía que dibujar patas.
years later i came home from dress rehearsal for Annie
with two baby mallards and dressed like an orphan.
no quería preguntar papá: how do orphans dress?
aunque creció en un orfanato.
my best attempt was ponytails, one higher than the other,
a sweater buttoned crookedly over a Stray Cats t-shirt,
mismatched socks, old shoes.
at school they used pato as a gay slur. clumsy on land, dijeron.
when i heard mojados, i thought: we say this about ourselves?
papá asked: how do you expect ducklings to live in the desert?
feathers can get waterlogged without access to agua. mucous
membranes dry out, making patitos ansiosos, destructivos.
can’t you make them a pond?
he’d built a deck with removable slats to invite or ignore sun.
i stood on a ladder balancing lumber on my head,
back wet with sweat, while he hammered boards into place.
the TV image of ‘us’ went from lazy, siesta in the sun to:
busy bordercrossing job stealers.
papá dug a hole and lined it with cement. he sealed it,
a barrier between earth and water. mis patitos splashed around
and shat green, the color of their hoods, on the redwood deck.
we studied flight patterns in endless, borderless skies
the way travelers study maps.
(i crossed the border many times and never got wet.)
by the time we released them in the park, my ducks were fatter
than the others. (some fathers never forgive daughters
for growing up.)
papá smashed up the concrete and hauled it to the dump.
en primavera we returned to the park and tried to spot our ducks,
but by then it was impossible.

Marcy Rae Henry