I thought it was an incantation, her name,

the way she said it in the singsong voice of a proud five year old.



Or a jingle, the way her lips pursed

perfectly in a subtle smile, vowels accentuated.


She waits in the salon while mother gets her hair cut.

Shows me her leopard print vinyl coat with bubble gum pink polyester lining.

Crosses her ankles, feet in ballet slippers.

Hair, a cape down her back. Quizzical brown eyes.




Alina tells me her brother, Hector is in 4th grade and he’s 16.

Her father, Ernesto is 16 too. Alina says,“They are very old.”

She tells me a story.


Once upon a time there was a little girl named Alina. Her mother, Silvia, is having her hair cut so Alina has to wait in the salon. Her mother cooks. Her father builds fences. Her brother eats pizza and tacos.

I ask her to draw a picture.

Square lines create a house.

Windows radiate light.

Stick figure of Alina waving.

Figure of Hector eating a taco.

But the house is sinking.

Glass on the ground.

Broken door.

Tacos are burning.

Stick figures disappear.



Will Alina know about the deep rivers

and that her mother had to learn to swim? Had to cross

Clothes on her back like skin.

Father in detention camp on floor cold as fear.

Alina Ramon Diaz Amorosa Calenderia