“When We Cross” by Erika Ayón

I sometimes wonder what became
of the belongings we left behind.
Did the landlord come and spill
them out on the curb like confetti?
Did the townspeople gather
at the sidewalk like scavengers
at a grave site?

I wonder if someone ended up
with my red and white checkered
school uniform. My blue plastic
coin purse. The wood dining table
with the blood stain on the corner
from the time I split my lip on
its sharp edge, had to get ten stitches.

Or is there, at the center of every
town, a pile where abandoned things
are taken to? Where people can drop
off the remains of those that have
departed. A sacred burial. A landfill
of baptism pictures, love letters,
and family heirlooms.

If you dig deep enough you will
find the paper mache caterpillar
I made in kindergarten. My white
dress shoes. The gold wand
from my fairy costume sits
on top like a cross, beckoning
me to come home.

At school, did the teacher call my name?
Take attendance for the first few days,
saved a seat, but by the end of the week,
put my name on the list with all the other
children who have crossed; Iris, Amelia,
Francisco, Juan. A list she folds into
cranes, releases into the sky every year.

Did another schoolmate leave that year?
Maybe they are that person, I sometimes
pass on the street, recognize, see
a familiarity, their name at the tip
of my tongue. I get this urge to stop
them, look toward their direction,
until they are gone.


Erika Ayón emigrated from Mexico when she was five years old and grew up in South Central, Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English. She was selected as a 2009 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow. Her work most recently appears in the Wide Awake Anthology, and Coiled Serpent Anthology. You can find out more about her at