A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Near the border, preschoolers worry about butterflies.
How can they fly over the wall? Fifty feet tall, thick steel plates
would sear delicate wings. And, lizards, Miss,
how can they get through?
Small fingers draw orange wings crashing into steel,
lizards hanging their blue heads. Y el tigre?
Severing ancient migration paths, the wall
will ensure the jaguar’s end.
Just after Cinco de Mayo, daytime temps
crack the knuckles of 100, ten degrees above normal.
No wall can stop rising heat, the death of coral reefs
or the governor calling for the National Guard to secure the border.
In holding cells, children separated from deported parents
wait for a future no one can predict.
And, in the San Joaquin Valley, strawberries and tomatoes
rot in fields. Farmers wonder where the pickers have gone.
Immaculate in his Armani suit, the President Tweets
for Congressional support to build his wall, calls for
a prayer meeting in the Oval Office. You can hear
bible hymns hum behind bullet-proof doors
across the lush White House lawn where Monarch butterflies,
who’ve migrated all the way from Mexico, land
on bright rose petals tended by hands
the same color as earth that nourishes them.
for Terry Acevedo
Since January, sun can’t stop shivering.
Hope shakes her head, refuses to step inside the front door,
so we drive to San Xavier Mission smudged with mesquite smoke,
the thousand melted roses of perfumed candle wax.
Worn out, we retreat from paranoid tweets,
the confused sleight of hand from the Commander In Chief.
Who knows how many Russian pockets the President has lined?
Incarcerating migrant children along the border is the strategy of lies.
Under white bell towers, time reverses its hungry grind
patted by the hands of O’odham women stretching dough
to drop on hot tops of burn barrels, attended by dogs
and children’s laughter as soft as sand they walk.
We enter the cathedral eyed by red archangels as we dip fingers
in bowls of holy water, our urgent need to cool nerves scraped raw
by the cries of children and toddlers ripped by federal agents
from parents seeking asylum in our country that’s lost its heart.
The thousand flames of votives offer no solution
near San Francisco’s effigy serene under blue satin.
It’s said he grants miracles to those who lift his sacred head.
Since the election, mass on the reservation is packed.
Entering San Diego Capilla, we enter our own wounds, say
intentions for the dead, for the health of friends, for love to end
public lies so loud we’ve become deaf to every crisis cry.
We inhale the multiplicity of candle flames til our chests burst.
We stroll across the burning scalp of desert sun, head
for ramadas fashioned from ocotillo and ironwood trunks
to buy fry bread crisp with grease, tortillas
so thin you can see your fingers waving on the other side.
On unshaded railroad ties, we sit with Indian families
breathing the sweet tincture of mesquite smoke, watch
a girl’s head lean on her grandma’s tshirt sleeve, resting
from alternative facts beating truth blind.
BORDERING ON HYSTERIA
I could border on hysteria, sew Jaguars to the hem of my skirt, run
into traffic streaming north, hold out a sugar skull
to the president with hair the color of dry wheat that feeds no one.
But this poem doesn’t have anything to do with comb-overs
or glacier eyes or gray suits signing laws so repugnant
a jaguar wouldn’t stop to sniff them if they were smeared
with fresh rabbit blood and dropped in her path.
For the Tohono O’odham daughter roasting red chilis
over a mesquite fire to take to her diabetic father two houses away,
what is a border but a wall slung between
her kitchen table and his? For the screaming migrant babies jailed
in a “tender age” concentration camp near Brownsville.
This poem borders on anger knowing it will be
arrested for leaving water in the desert for families
fleeing with their shadows from the shadow puppet of poverty,
from genocidal governments,
from the hands of coyotes ripping skirts off mothers
and daughters in van after van.
Poetry shouts, beating her fists raw against twenty feet high
tempered steel plates dividing our hearts, against
the magazines Militia snap into rifles, semi-automatic pistols of rage
chasing a 14 year old boy from Oaxaca through cactus thorns
that puncture our own skin.
I will not border on hysteria but will work
on a poem to feed all of us, a poem ground
from maiz and jugs of fresh water to leave on the altar of need,
a poem with warm pillows and blankets to melt icy lies,
a poem to rock babies back to their mothers’ arms,
a poem that erases the signatures of legislators
written by pens clenched in their orange spray-tanned fists.
Copyright 2018 Pamela Uschuk