North and South

By Gabriella M. Belfiglio

She crouches on mud
lacing up a pristine yellow high top.  
Holding on  
to a thin trunk for balance
he pulls off grimy pants.  
Two younger girls  
wear matching sweat

pants, black with hot pink stripes  
torn from the climb over mountains,  
mucky from hiking through the jungle,  
perpetually damp from wading through  
the leech-infested Mekong.  
One helps the other remove the shirt
that she’s worn too many
days now, for a clean one
saved in her small bag.  It’s light
pink, the color of cherry  

blossoms.  It matches the plastic bud  
she pins to her dark hair.  
They must disguise them

selves as tourists.

Embark on the Asian under

ground railroad—
risk everything
to reach a safe house;  
or nearly die  
in their cruel mother
land—reduced to finding
grass, roots, bark  
in place of dinner.

If lucky,
you face  

the task of starting over.

But across the border—
suffering swells
larger than your malnourished body.
In your stark apartment—
a stack of books
serves as table, a white clock on white wall
ticks the hours spent alone.  
Even saying hello
could give yourself away.

After so much violence

Gabriella M. Belfiglio lives in Brooklyn, NY with her partner and four cats. She teaches self-defense, conflict resolution, karate, and tai chi to people of all ages throughout the five boroughs. Gabriella won second place in the 2014 W.B. Yeats Poetry Contest. Her website is