Volume 25, Number 3

Failed States

Ninety thousand children cross the border.

American drug and gun habits arm
the cartels, stronger than governments
of their failed states, “privatization”
beyond the right wing’s wildest dreams.

For Juan and José, it’s join the gangs,
for María or Linda be raped, maybe
murdered—or else throw yourself
on the mercy of Estados Unidos.

If you had only your one poor
young brown-skinned life in El Salvador
or Honduras, if your mother told you
not to stay, how far would you go?

Children six and eight years old ride
the Train of Death, cling to the tops of
railroad cars for hundreds of miles—those
not thrown under the wheels by bandits.

That star of promise that calls them
to the north, is it worth their trust?
Or is our heart one of those dead
suns whose rays still travel in the dark?

—Thomas R. Smith