Today as I walked in New Sanctuary Coalition’s Jericho Walk, I held Roxana Hernández in my heart. Roxana fled Honduras to escape the “epidemic levels of violence” faced by trans women and sought asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry. Instead of the sanctuary she deserved, she was placed in an “ice box” where she was denied adequate food and medical care. Two weeks later, she was dead.
Today, as I walked, I held my trans sister Roxana in my heart and borrowed words from the poem Even Bochan, published in 1322 by Jewish scholar, poet, and trans woman Kalonymus ben Kalonymus. The poem, shared with me by Rebecca Novick, is as gorgeous an ode to trans longing as I’ve ever read (trans. Steven Greenberg):
“Oh, but had the artisan who made me
created me instead — a fair woman.
Today I would be wise and insightful.
We would weave, my friends and I,
and in the moonlight spin our yarn,
and tell our stories to one another,
from dusk till midnight.”
I am with her, there in the moonlight, sharing stories with my sisters, the yarn moving through our fingers. And I am with her, there in the cold light, my arms around my sister, trying to keep her warm.
Oh Kalonymus, I hope you will not mind that I have borrowed your words and fit them to honor her:
You who did miracles for our ancestors with fire and water,
You changed the fire of Chaldees so it would not burn hot,
You changed Dina in the womb of her mother to a girl,
You changed the staff to a snake before a million eyes,
You changed Moses’ hand to leprous white
and the sea to dry land.
In the desert you turned rock to water,
hard flint to a fountain.
You who did all this, let Roxana Hernández’s memory be for a blessing,
Let that blessing change her prison into a sanctuary
Let it change the hearts of jailers into liberators
Let it change borders ino way stations
And all walls to gardens.