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Pamela Uschuk: Three Poems About Borders



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.


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

Pamela Uschuk’s many books include Crazy Love and  Blood Flower, both published by Wings Press. She lives in Tuscon, Arizona.


Pamela Uschuk in the high desert.

3 comments on “Pamela Uschuk: Three Poems About Borders

  1. pamuschuk
    July 6, 2020

    Thank you, Beth. I am grateful that you read these poems and left a comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thelmadonna
    June 21, 2018

    I needed these poems. Thank you, Pam!

    Beth Spencer


    Liked by 1 person

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