Cuidad de Juarez, Mexico

A new mother wrapped in a worried face
and hospital gown stands thickly
in the hallway talking to the volunteer doctor.
Aa a small band of newborn philanthropists,
we troop by her, grouped behind our guide,
the priest and clinic administrator. And we follow
him over well-scrubbed, but cracked
linoleum floors, and walk by a few beds
covered in frayed chenille spreads
and enter the small nursery where tiny, purple-tinted
twins lie in two old fashion oxygen tents,
with miniature prongs stuck into their noses
which are tethered to bottles that bubble.

Como estan? We ask.
Muy malo, the nurse replies.

Another volunteer on the phone tries to find
a city hospital that will take in this pair
born with little weight and no pesos.
The mother had summoned the priest’s
wheezing ambulance after she delivered one baby
to her sofa. Father Baca could help, she hoped,
if she came to this meager clinic at the base
of her barrio, a hillside covered with tarred
cardboard shacks that clung tentatively
to the hill, where dead dogs lay in the middle
of littered streets and all people withered
in one way or another.

Now we encounter other dogs
tethered to DEA agents who stalk
along the long lines of cars filled
with passengers, who like us, hope
to convince these officials in uniforms
to let them cross the border. The khaki
faces look us over, for a moment,
then waved us on as if
we weren’t the ones in question.