‘Columbine,’ A Poem by Javier Zamora

"Though there had been war; I did not know the way to school yet."

I’d never seen one like it: the flower
with its many orange cups. Dad drove me to Yosemite
the second month in this country.
He didn’t know the name of it. I didn’t know the name of it,
only that I loved the cups & that
they reminded me of the hibiscus
outside the glassless window I’d left months ago.
I hadn’t started school yet. There were many things I didn’t know,
the most important. Didn’t have friends.
Entire days spent inside the apartment
memorizing words, reading bilingual picture books,
comparing couch to the picture, to the couch
in my parents’ living room. In the news,
earlier, much earlier, before I arrived in June: headlines
I could not read. Could not understand. Parents
shared a fear I’d never known. Though
I’d seen guns on the way up here. Though
there had been war; I did not know the way to school yet.
The names of highways that would show me blooms.


The preceding is from the Freeman’s channel at Literary Hub, which features excerpts from the print editions of Freeman’s, along with supplementary writing from contributors past, present and future. The upcoming issue of Freeman’s, a collection of writings on California, featuring work by Tommy Orange, Rabih Alameddine, Rachel Kushner, Mai Der Vang, Reyna Grande, and more, is available now.

Javier Zamora
Javier Zamora
Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador in 1990. His father fled the country when he was one, and his mother when he was about to turn five. Both parents’ migrations were caused by the U.S.-funded Salvadoran Civil War. When he was nine Javier migrated through Guatemala, Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert. His debut poetry collection, Unaccompanied, explores the impact of the war and immigration on his family. Zamora has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard and holds fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. His memoir Solito is out now from Hogarth.

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