afraid of deportation, the families didn’t understand
their obligation to have names
and to know where they had lived
on April 1 five years before.
I used my Spanish badly, like a child
making drawings with crayons
to almost explain—government forms, the law.
Arizona in July, they kept their doors
and windows closed, the insides fanless,
from modesty, or fear. Once, in a house
no larger than my kitchen,
I documented 25, some whose names
the coughing abuela
forgot and asked me to invent. For a time
the work let me leave myself,
though I’m sorry it came down to only that—
your leaving the marriage for Italy and Greece,
the weeks I spoke to no one
but the dog with a cast on her leg,
the weary Sonorans who feared me.
A landlord used his passkey to let me in
to the trailer of a grocery clerk no one counted.
Dead six days, he’d been clipping his nails
with scissors when the heart attack came.
Weeks I dreamt of him and tried to find
the mathematics for all these losses,
how few things add up, how finally we stand
befuddled as those Amazon tribes
who keep their system small and terrible,
a number for one, a number for two,
a final number for many.