Beware of Mayan Gods

The Mayan Goddess Ix Chel

This is a poem about a famous photograph of a Salvadoran refugee and his child found drowned in the Rio Grande while attempting to cross it near Matamoros. Poet Brenda Cárdenas refers to the Mayan goddess Ix Chel in the course of her poem. She bases her work on a drawing by Erik Ricardo de Luna Genel which I have not been able to find. Below is the photograph:

Cien nombres para la muerte:
La hilacha/The Loose Thread

Ix Chel, skeleton moon at her loom,
wipes her furrowed forehead, daddy
longlegs dangling like loose threads
from the corners of her eyes dark as ditches.
She stitches crossbones into skirts,
weaves skulls into blankets she will trade
with travelers. “Mantillas, rebozos!”
she’ll sing unfurling her wares for parents
to wrap around babes she has guided
from their mothers’ oceans to Earth.

Under one moon, a Salvadoran father
and mother cannot wait any longer
in the winding lines of starved
asylum seekers ordered to halt.
So their daughter, not yet two, wraps
her tiny arms around the bough
of papi’s neck, clings to his trunk
as he wades into the big river, swims
strong as salmon, against churning currents.

But when he spills her on the bank, warns
her to wait, and lunges back into the torrent
for mami, the little one panics, follows.
Under one sun, the river carries them
away, defying the border
it never meant to become.

Ix Chel’s waning crescent finds them
first, face down in the mud,
wrapped together in the black shroud
of papi’s shirt. And from her great jug,
holding all the waters of heaven,
she spills storms to wash away
the lines we’ve carved, dug, drilled,
the walls we’ve built in chain link, barbed
wire, concrete, and steel between desert
and desert, river
and river, earth
and earth, between father
and mother, mother and
under one moon.