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|Nine years old,
freed to try
again to join his
over the border.
I could bore you with the sunset, the way
water tasted after so many days without it,
the trees, the breed of dogs, but I can’t
say there were forty people when we found
the ranch with the thin white man, his dogs,
and his shotgun. Until this 5 a.m., I hadn’t
or couldn’t remember there were only five,
or seven, people—
not forty. We’d separated by the palo verdes.
We meaning: an eighteen-year-old ex-gangster,
a mom with her thirteen-year-old, and me.
Four people. Not forty. The rest . . . the rest,
I don’t know. They weren’t there when
the thin white man let us drink from a hose
while pointing his shotgun. In Spanish
he told us if run away, dogs trained attack.
Water must’ve felt like water, and my throat
like a throat after days without liquids,
and the dogs, maybe they could’ve killed us,
who knows, who cares, the farmer
is probably dead, a few more years in him,
but can’t believe he’s lasted these seventeen.
When La Migra truck arrived, an officer
who probably called himself Arizonan,
Hispanic at best, not Mejicano
like we called him, said buenas noches
and gave us pan dulce y chocolate.
Procedure says he should’ve taken us
back to the station, checked our fingerprints,
etcetera. He knew we weren’t Mexican.
He must’ve remembered his family
coming over the border, or the border
coming over them, because he drove us
to the border and told us next time, rest
at least five days, don’t trust anyone calling
themselves coyotes, bring more tortillas, sardines,
Alhambra. He knew we would try again.
And again—like everyone does.
SOURCE: The Kenyon Review July/August 2016, Ohio, USA.
The Kenyon Review is supported in part by The National
Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Ohio Arts Council.
Let Me Try Again
I believe [poetry] matters because it reminds us of our
feelings. It reminds us that it's okay to feel and to tap into our
emotions. And if we're not in tune with our emotions, we are
not living. And it matters because there's a history of all the
poets who have risked their lives [to write]. I think in the
United States we forget that writing and carrying that banner
of "being a poet" is tied into a long history of people that have
literally risked [their lives] and died to write those words.
And I think that when we forget that, that's when poetry will
stop mattering. But I don't think people have.
~ JAVIER ZAMORA IN HIS INTERVIEW WITH PAULETTE BEETE FOR THE
NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, DECEMBER 2014.
As is evident in “Let Me Try Again,” my drive to the landscape
might also be my way of trying to dig traumatic memories of
my brief time at the US-Mexico border. It is a new finding
that a constant in my work is nature. It was always there, I
just didn’t see it as such. I started hiking before I started
writing poetry. I did it to soothe me, to release stress, but I
didn’t have the words to state it as such. Now I see that I’ve
always been focused on the natural landscape and our
relation to it. In particular, in this poem, how laws and politics
have made us risk our lives in places where even the
animals struggle to survive.
~ JAVIER ZAMORA TALKS ABOUT HIS POEM "LET ME TRY AGAIN" IN HIS
CONVERSATION WITH THE KENYON REVIEW, 2016.
POET & EDUCATOR
JAVIER ZAMORA, born
in La Herradura, El
Salvador, is a poet and
educator who lives in
California. During the
Civil War (1980-1992),
his father fled the
country when Javier was
a year old; and his
mother when he was
about to turn five.
In 1999, Zamora joined
his parents in the USA.
With the help of other
migrants, he traveled
Guatemala, Mexico, and
the Sonoran Desert,
making it to Arizona.
Zamora earned a BA in
history (major) and creative
writing (minor) at the
California-Berkeley and an
MFA at New York University.
He is a 2016-2018 Wallace
Stegner Fellow at Stanford
Immigrantes / Nine
Immigrant Years won
the 2011 Organic
Weapon Arts Contest.
His first poetry
forthcoming Fall 2017.
His honors include:
~ National Endowment
for the Arts Fellowship;
~ Olive B. O'Connor
Fellowship in Creative
Writing at Colgate
~ 2016 Barnes &
Noble Writer for
~ Meridian Editor's
~ 2016 Ruth Lilly &
Fellowship from the
In 2015, Salvadorans
made up 40 percent of
Central America with a
total of over 1.3
one-fifth) of the total
population of El
Salvador (6.4 million
More than half of the
immigrants resided in
California and Texas.
Following a series of
natural disasters in
eligible for Temporary
Protected Status (TPS),
eligibility for work
authorization. TPS has
been renewed for
Nicaragua until January
2018, and El Salvador
until March 2018.
LEARN MORE about
TPS at USCIS, the
official website of the