La Mariposa de Jackeline by Xanath Caraza
Jackeline's Butterfly honors and commemorates the life of Jackeline Caal, the seven-year-old Guatemalan girl who died while in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on December 8, 2018. Jackeline and her father, Nery Caal, were part of a group of 163 asylum seekers who crossed the New Mexican border the previous day. They turned themselves in to the authorities at around 10 PM, but when Jackeline began to vomit and have seizures, it took 90 minutes before she was seen by medical professionals. The doctors recorded a body temperature of 105.7° F.
Jackeline was transported to the children's hospital in El Paso, Texas, but it was too late to save her. The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics called this tragic death "preventable."
In this wide-ranging collection, Xánath Caraza calls upon nature and the gods (both ancient Greek and Mesoamerican) to witness the senseless death of Jackeline and other children who "One by one ... / die alone." Attention must be paid to the horrors that are taking place: "Red moon: bear witness / to this tragedy. / Nocturnal birds: / wake from your slumber / and strengthen your flight. / Stop gliding / with the wind. / Flap your wings, / dominate the skies, / spread the news."
The final poems address Jackeline directly and celebrate the seven-year-old child who had the strength and audacity to travel over 2000 miles in search of a better life. Jackeline's memory is honored: "You depart full of poetry, Mayan girl. / Your huipil embroidered with blue butterflies. / Your motionless hands loaded with golden memories. / Your closed eyes still cold. / You are flower and song, beautiful girl." The horror of this loss is mitigated only by the butterfly that continues to flutter about, representing hope and the innocence of childhood. Edward Lorenz asked whether a single flap of a butterfly's wings in one part of the world might lead to a tornado in another. Here's hoping that the fluttering of this butterfly leads, instead, to a rebirth of compassion and concern for the most vulnerable among us.