Seeing Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez


His smile affirms what sixteen is all about

after a journey of one thousand miles

he sits in the raft and looks

into the smuggler’s camera

as he floats the Rio Grande 

the smile on his face believes

opportunity lies on the northern shore

money to ease his parents’ burdens

in San Jose El Rodeo where his father

labors when there is work for $4.50 an hour

yet somehow his parents pay the coyote

to guide Carlos and his sister

across the border to grow a new life

they leave Guatemala in April Carlos knows

in his strong young bones life cannot fail

one so easy in strength and buoyant in spirit

sixteen sees only life’s

outstretched hand


Shining with hope turned burning

with fever in the holding pen at McCallen

103 degrees became a ticket for transfer

to Westlaco Border Patrol Station

a concrete block bench for a bed

thin mylar sheet for a blanket

a camera’s indifferent eye to witness

Carlos walking to the locked cell door

falling face down on the floor crawling

searching for comfort he lay one arm

flung over his head as a child might sleep

but this is posture pinned by pain and policy

the uncaring lens positioned by law

recording Carlos rising to stumble toward the toilet

falling beside it torso hidden behind a wall

recording his legs convulsing then stilling

recording Carlos Gregorio Vasquez Hernandez

lying dead undiscovered for four hours

nine days after reaching the U.S. shore

welfare check left undone

recording Carlos surrendering

his dreams


Carlos’ mother mourns

They detained him there

and they didn’t worry about him

Why didn’t they follow the law

Carlos’ father asks for truth

What happened to him

An older brother speaks simply

We never thought this would happen

where he’s supposed to be

in a better place

Dia de los Muertos en Michoacan Mexico

Imagine a border crossing

no wall or armed guards

and 500,000 floating south

not one turned away and

Imagine a welcome

for these long-travelled immigrants

the laughter of children their faces

lifted to the sky and the abuelas

marigolds and sunflowers cradled

in their arms and

Imagine the women

embroidered flowers blooming on blouses 

walking gardens themselves inviting

the travelers to rest where they might

on shoulders, on hair, in bouquets

on sweet lips and

Imagine the newcomers

lighting on fingertips to play and

parade on the Day of the Dead

orange fans unfolding

prayers fluttering to heaven

just Imagine the oyamel firs

clustered in forests high up the mountains

heads in the clouds waiting to shelter

all that have flown so far 

so worthy of rest

now Imagine a country

welcoming children like monarchs

seeing beauty in strong wings

that carried them north,.

so far to fly

so worthy of rest


Susan Martell Huebner lives in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Her novel, She Thought The Door Was Locked, was published by Cawing Crow Press and is available through Amazon. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Reality Changes With the Willy Nilly Wind. Her work history includes public school teaching, employment and volunteer experience at The Milwaukee Women’s Refuge, The Foster Care Review Board of Milwaukee County, Lutheran Social Services, as well as the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program. Links to her writing can be found at

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