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By Jonathan Mendoza

Osmosis: in which molecules of a solvent pass through a membrane to achieve equilibrium.

Example: I place my hand in a pool of salt.
Some stays. Some seeps into my skin.
Everything goes exactly where it’s supposed to.

Example: Prudencia Martín Gómez leaves Guatemala at 18
to surprise her husband in California.
Like most beings, most of Prudencia’s body is water.

When Prudencia is found
60 miles from the US-Mexico border,
a pile of clothes, limbs, and a puddle of wet sand,
is she the corpse?
or was she
the water?

If Prudencia is water,
and the desert is
a ground, then Prudencia went
exactly where she was supposed to.

If migration is a pipe
and employment is a sponge,
then Prudencia went
exactly where she was supposed to.

Some would like to build a wall,
and water always seeps through,
but much does not.

Most days, water dries in the bed of a pick-up truck
clutching a seven-year-old daughter.

Most days, water is the daughter
engulfed by men who are storms.

Most days, water flees the storm
only to join other water,
like at the bottom of a riverbed,
or drowning in an All American Canal.

Most days, water must leave a nation
that is on fire
into the nation
that fans the flames. Most days,

home is a war,
even if they called it a cold one.
War is only cold
everywhere it isn't a fire.

Home was the gun fire
and the crossfire
and the day an American-backed coup
burned Prudencia’s village to the ground,

and water fled up,

and some days
water survives long enough to know comfort
as something other than a fantasy.
but most days
water exists just to be consumed,

just to be exploited,
just until a nation’s fear
sheathes all the water like ice.

ICE stops everything.

ICE stops children on their way to work.
ICE stops parents on their way home.
ICE stops a loved one from praying at a hospital bed.

Water leaves the eye,
and Prudencia is a small ocean on her husband's face.

Salt stays,
sings the water its own name:



         Everything goes
         exactly where it's supposed to.

Prudencia leaves,


a cloud.

Prudencia becomes

the rain.


soaks the earth.

The earth begets

  a seed…


They tried to bury us.

They didn't know we were


They didn't know we were


They didn't know we were

everything the earth

would become.

Added: Wednesday, March 7, 2018  /  Jonathan Mendoza’s poem was awarded First Place in the 2018 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest, sponsored by Split This Rock. Sonia Sanchez lent her generous acumen as judge for the contest.
Jonathan Mendoza
Photo by James O'Connell.

Jonathan Mendoza is a Boston-bred, Chicago-based Jewish and Mexican-American activist, spoken word poet, social justice educator, and musician. He is a National Poetry Slam Champion and the winner of Split This Rock’s 2018 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest. Jonathan serves as a community organizer for housing and youth power with Pilsen Alliance and as a teaching artist with Young Chicago Authors. Find books and updates at his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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