Juan G.

By Jessica Mehta

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For a year he cut the lawn, and I never
knew his last name. I had to ask

the neighbor in the yellow
house after he vanished, her roses
dormant witnesses in the dark. When I’d tried
in terrible Spanish to explain where to plant the lavender,
my macete stumbled out machete
and he’d laughed behind black
cheap glasses, said, Police, bad,
they don’t like it
. Words fall out
clumsy, twisted, and his surname—
we only cared when he’d gone. Then,

it was knocks on doors, furtive
asks in the night. For a week I watched
the online detainee locator site,
made calls that never came back.
The neighbor patrolled his church, carried
back stories of an avocado orchard
outside Tancítaro,
acres of drug cartels with fuerte-slick lips
where his father-in-law was murdered
last month. We don’t know to hope

that ICE ripened him out or if he turned scared
and went south. Children hunkered
the cab with grass clippings, his wife
watching the exit signs fall
to one. Who knows? the neighbor
said, her white teeth shining. Maybe one day
he’ll show up with a truck of avocados

and his cataracts scraped clean.

– Jessica Mehta

Author’s NoteI’m a confessional poet, making all of my work either autobiographical or based on real people and situations. As for Juan G., we did receive a message from him that he arrived in Mexico safely with his family. That has been our last contact since November 2017.