The poem is written through the yearning voice of a woman named Sophia, a heroic immigrant from El Salvador. Her husband, Tonal, had been the victim of a gang murder. She musters the strength to head north to the United States with her 4-year-old son, Joaquin. U.S. border authorities separate them.
Placed inside a southern New Mexico detention center, Sophia is raped. Yet she holds her head up and perseveres. She thinks of her late husband. She hopes her son is alive and they can be reunited: “I feel like I am walking up a mountain/meditating on you my sweet Joaquin,/where are you? are you safe? do you have nightmares?/do you cry at night, are you eating, are you sick?”
Repeatedly, Sophia wills herself to ascend a metaphorical mountain. She struggles to overcome fear and the unknown, suppresses memories of death and still has the will to go on. She shows the courage of Athena.