If the Jornada del Muerto* Had a Trachea

By Jennifer Givhan
December 5th, 2014

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If the Jornada del Muerto* Had a Trachea
and she was choking on deviled eggs
     with yellow mustard and paprika sprinkles
from her mama’s book club
picnic on the back patio, where she once
     played rag dolls alone until she found
her ghost sister Nieve white as snow cone before
the juice, if she longed for more than salt flats
     or sand dunes or lava flows beyond the fence’s
thick irrigation pipes, if she was clutching
her scarf and flailing while the mothers
     read on, pages filled with ink the color
of the crows in her dark eyes, if she was lost
and lonely but none of that mattered
     now she was turning blue with swallowing
spongy egg pieces down the wrong tube—
I would wrap my red arms around her
     and python-squeeze until she spit them out.
Maybe her mama stopped hugging her
when her father left. Maybe her mama
     cannot see her baby white sister, lightly
snowing on the desert cacti, corseting
cane cholla like a muted holiday wasteland.
     Maybe her mama didn’t even notice
she too had almost gone away, on the
xeriscaping, not breathing nothing—not
     grown-up conversations or party cups
filled with pink iced lemonade or stifling
winter air. If she needed me to, I would reach
     inside and scrape the ridges of her burning
throat until the lump stopped growing—
if she needed me to, I would lash
     myself to her brownstone neck, make
myself a scar.
*The Jornada del Muerto (Spanish for “single day’s journey of the dead man”) is a desert in southern New Mexico.