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poetry On the Dry Sea of Sonora

Arizona-based poet Lollie Butler’s poetry captures the horrors of refugees crossing the Sonora desert.

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On the Dry Sea of Sonora

 By Lollie Butler

Everything the shadow of a wall can’t cure

pays profits to

                        the sun.

Take this man Jaime and his wife Rosa

handing off their two young ones

                      like duffels;

                      crossing themselves

as they cross La Frontera…Adios…adios…

Via con Dios…

See how their faces turn

to the small-craft warnings of Sonora;

                    man and woman adrift

in a lifeboat

made of coyote promises.

Walking north with two day’s water

                   for a five-day journey,

the sun rises

over the range of javalina,

bears down like

the wrath of the Aztec God;

offers no solace.  These rigors

the wildcat takes in stride

and will gnaw the bones

                   of los povres 

when the sky and sand change places

as plodding droops to crawling

on the dry sea of Sonora. 

El sol…el sol, there is nothing but

the skin-splitting sun as man and woman

follow their only god; a single shade tree


from the rippling horizon.

Under the anger of noon,

the rattler recoils

and the distant mountains spin

                  like folk dancers.

Beef jerky gone, weak water,

until there’s nothing

but the thought of torn nails

from family timbers; the lack

of legal papers, saying they are counted

among lives worth living.

Man and woman will gamble survival

                   in one world

against the scant means of another,


for work their empty hands ache

to reach.  At night

their ninos cry like dark-eyed mice.


Under a bruised sky, the sun drops

behind the mountains;

a double chain of footprints

              comes to an end

and hope’s votive candle

is blown out across Sonora.  

Lollie Butler is a Fellow in Literature, granted by the Arizona Commission for the Arts.  After earning an MFA from the University of Arizona, she taught Creative Writing to women inmates of the Arizona State Prison, and won several awards including a fellowship from The Arizona Commission for the Arts.  She was awarded Tucson Citizen of the Year in 2003 for her work with refugees.  Her poetry and prose are published widely. Lollie lives in Tucson with various wild creatures of the desert.