D. Dina Friedman

Refugee Camp: Matamoros

A small boy braving the rain
sways on the banks of the Rio Bravo.

What does he remember of his home in Honduras
before the men broke windows

took his sister’s doll
his father’s heart.

Now, a doll with a dismembered arm
hangs naked on the barbed wire fence.

Behind, people cook tortillas, platanos,
pollo con arroz on small stoves.

We balance our bodies on broken chairs,
with broken Spanish, we piece the words

of the woman who fled
because they said they’d kill her son,

that boy, too close
to the edge of the river.

There’s a church here
with books about Jesus,

who’s white in all the pictures
like the ladies serving on the dinner line.

Only the children are smiling.
Everyone wants more water.



Valentine’s Day

A heart made of paper
will wrinkle
if you flail it

in the wind
on a ladder
watching children

playing soccer
on the other side
of a barbed wire fence.

When you wave your heart
they’ll lift their orange hats
like torches. And the guards

will tell them
you’re being paid
to hold those silly hearts

like those folks by Liberty Taxes
costumed in the statue’s crown,
who flap their arms,

waving you in
to pay
for caging

these children.
It’s Valentine’s Day,
or it will be

when the sun rises.
You’re holding a heart
at an airport in Texas

where you wait
for the cuffed children
to limp into the plane,

which crouches round-nosed:
a dolphin with the belly of a shark.
When the transport bus lights

appear out of fog,
you brandish your paper heart,
shout, I love you.

Once upon a time, Valentine’s Day
was about pasting hearts on doilies
and eating chocolate.

You have a chocolate
to press into someone’s hands;
when the bus stops

you press yourself against its grille.
By the tinted window
a shadow holds up shackled wrists,

fingers curved
into the unmistakable shape
of a heart.


D. Dina Friedman has published widely in literary journals and received two Pushcart Prize nominations. She’s the author of two young adult novels: Escaping Into the Night (Simon and Schuster) and Playing Dad’s Song (Farrar, Straus, Giroux) and one chapbook of Poetry, Wolf in the Suitcase (Finishing Line Press). She has an MFA from Lesley University and taught for many years at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. Visit her website at www.ddinafriedman.com.