Daughter by Cyndi Gonzalez


I sent my youngest daughter
Away today.
In black high heels and a navy suit,
Five hundred American dollars,
A handful of speckled beans
Sewn into her pocket.
I sent her down the road.

I sent her down the road
Today, four months pregnant,
Holding her daughter by the hand,
All her money, all her hopes,
Tucked into her pocket,
May the Virgin keep her safe.

She went to cross the border today,
Over to the other side.
I drowned out all my flower pots
With a bucketful of water;
Does she see them dripping?
I can see her fighting
An angry, roaring river.
I buried all my carrot tops
With a bucketful of sand,
Can she see them sinking?
I can see her crossing
An endless, scorching desert.

She went to cross the border today.
Over to the gringo side.
Over to the money side.
I surrounded all my chickens
With barbed wire teeth
Can she hear them squawking?
I can see her climbing
A steel-rimmed fence.
I covered all her toys
With corn husk dolls
Can she hear them crackle?
I can hear her lying
Across a paper-ridden desk.
May the Virgin keep her safe.

Cyndi Gonzalez’s Questions:

1. Does the rhythm of the lines fit with the subject/images?

2. Is the ending too abrupt?

Reply directly to the poet:  cynthiaag (at) comcast (dot) net


  1. Carol Ayer  •  Mar 21, 2010 @7:37 am

    Hi Cyndi,

    I’m still new at critiquing, but I can tell you that I liked the poem very much. Yes, I felt that the rhythm and the images worked well together.

    And, no, I didn’t find your ending abrupt. I wouldn’t have even considered that without your question. Good job.

  2. CE  •  Mar 21, 2010 @11:47 am

    I think the rhythm and line breaks are well done and appropriate for the leaving–you wouldn’t want long lines and enjambments as if the mother were trying to hang on. I don’t find the ending abrupt but I do find it unclear. If she is being interviewed by a customs agent, why is she lying across the paper-riddled desk? Or if in hospital, the paper would be on an examining table. I guess I just don’t get the reference. Sitting at a paper-riddled desk I would understand; caught by the authorities. Or is the inference she will deliver in a weird situation?

  3. Cyndi  •  Mar 28, 2010 @2:13 pm

    Is “lying” as in “telling a lie” spelled differently? Can I make that more clear? I meant to infer that she was telling lies; a different word instead of “across” perhaps?

  4. Carol Ayer  •  Apr 10, 2010 @8:14 am

    Hi Cyndi,

    It’s spelled the same.

    Hmm. Could you use “telling lies” instead? Or would that break the flow?


  5. Tom  •  Jun 26, 2010 @8:16 pm

    Your poem carried me to directly to the scene and drama of the event.
    The timing and rhythm of the piece was not distracting at all, and fit the content. I did not feel that the ending was abrupt, and I felt that the ending could be interpreted in more than one way.

  6. Cyndi  •  Jun 27, 2010 @9:32 am

    Thanks Carol, telling lies might work, I’ll try it. Thanks Tom.

  7. Daniel  •  Jul 13, 2010 @3:31 pm

    The rhythm and form seem to fit the piece perfectly, and no I don’t think the ending is too abrupt. In fact, I like the abruptness of it. I think it’s just perfect that way, because it lends a final release to the dramatic tension that you build up in the preceding stanzas.
    The stanzas get longer, and the imagery gets just slightly more surreal compared to the opening lines, which are very conversational and linear. This builds as the piece progresses, and the reader knows you must be going somewhere with it. So a seemingly abrupt conclusion is a good fit.

    I agree, the ending could be taken more than one way. I did not quite get the connection to telling a lie, and the end gave me the impression that perhaps the daughter would find herself in a much less respectable position than simply telling an untruth to a parent.
    I think the reason for this is that you’ve got a lot of imagery in the earlier stanzas that lends itself to child-rearing, motherhood, as well productivity in general, as well as illicit behavior- she is pregnant, with children, no mention of father, plus high-heels and crossing a desert and a river followed by a fence reference says illicit entry, also imagery of watering plants, and then vegetables, teeth, chicken, as well as the repetition of the Virgin. All of the sensory is pointing toward reproduction, sustaining, devouring, and illicit acts. So the reference to the desk seems abrupt combined with the word ‘lying’ which has more than one meaning.
    That said, it may be effective to leave it open-ended in this way. Both of these interpretations can co-exist to great effect in this piece.
    But if you feel you must clear it up, you could do so my simply adding the words ‘to me’ after ‘lying’.
    Regardless of reader interpretation I think the back and forth motion of the sounds and the questions of who is able to hear whom is wonderful in this piece.

  8. Brian Ricketts  •  Oct 15, 2010 @11:43 am

    First I really enjoyed the poem. I like the story-telling purely with images and the flashes back and forth between the speaker and daughter. A couple of suggestions: First, perhaps the quick pace of these flashes back and forth could be broken up if you had it broken up into more verses. Secondly, maybe the slight abruptness at the end could be fixed by staying on the daughter image at least a couple of more lines at the end (paper-ridden desk…then more lines on the daughter). This could also serve to clarify the daughter’s plight. As for the last line, I feel it closes the poem up rather than opening which endings often serve to do. Perhaps another question at the end would work.

  9. Sara  •  Jan 13, 2011 @6:04 pm

    Hi Cyndi,

    The rhythm of your lines is fine. The ending is fine. I got the “lying,” I mean, what else would an illegal do? I appreciate this poem and the metaphysical apron string. You might send her away, but she’s always yours.

    With kindness,


  10. Jill-Love  •  Aug 1, 2012 @5:41 pm

    I agree with Sara, I thought the rhythm was smooth and worked well. The ending could be taking in different ways, but isn’t that part of the allure of a poem? That people can interpret it differently? Great work and thanks for sharing. With love, Jill

  11. Les  •  Oct 12, 2012 @7:44 am

    Hi Cyndi
    For me the highlights of this piece were definitely the reflections of the mother, her imagining that she saw what her daughter was doing, nicely juxtaposed with the mundane tasks she was doing — perhaps to try to take her mind off of her daughter’s parting? — the contrast between their situations and the pensive, questioning tone of the mother.

    Whilst I see what you are doing here and would not say that the poem fails, far from it, I would also be very interested to see another piece which makes rather more of that contrasting play of thoughts in the mind of the mother. Maybe a piece entirely played out in the mind of the mother and moving away from the narrative style of this piece that seems to need to tell the whole story.

    Thank you for sharing your poem with us, Cyndi. It shows a lot of thought and work has gone into it. I’d just want to encourage you to look back at it now that some time has passed and play with the imagery a little more. Entice us with a ‘mind poem’ developed from the facts of the situation here.

    In friendship, Les

  12. Hazel Muller  •  Mar 14, 2013 @2:30 pm

    This is a really powerful poem filled with emotion. I was confused by the ending as were others in this response. My suggestion to the line “Across a paper-ridden desk.” would be:
    put some punctuation at the end of the line above it like a semi-colon then this line:
    Look at the paper laden desk.

    It reads almost like an expletive at this point. Then the prayerful last line is really heard as a prayer.

    I like this poem very much.

  13. Cyndi  •  Mar 3, 2014 @11:35 am

    I’ve just returned after a long absence, and am delighted to see that my poem is still getting comments.

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