To the Border Guard Who Found Aylan Kurdi

Erica Goss

The way you stood, I could tell it was not the first time
you’d plucked a child’s body

from the warm Aegean shore.
Soft skull, soft body,

not sleeping, not awake. The Greek Islands fragmented
like parts of a body.

Arms stretched in front of you,
spine bent against the sorrow in your body,

you walked the beach while cameras
clicked at the floppy little body

in your rubber-gloved hands. The whole
world watched, as if one body,

your face as you looked away from the dangling
shoes. Unsure how to move your body,

the tiny heels kicking against you with every step,
you held on to the short history of his body


Erica Goss served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA from 2013-2016. She is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award, Wild Place and Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets. Recent work appears in Lake Effect, Atticus Review, Contrary, Convergence, Spillway, Cider Press Review, Eclectica, The Tishman Review, Tinderbox, The Red Wheelbarrow, and Main Street Rag, among others. She is editor of Sticks & Stones, a bi-monthly poetry newsletter. Please visit her at Of these two poems, Goss writes, “I address the border guard who carried the dead boy so awkwardly and carefully, knowing the world was watching—and in “My Grandfather’s War Papers” I trace my grandfather’s journey from Leningrad to Paris, where he surrendered in 1945 to the Americans.”