The man in the Explosive Specialist shirt
mentions he’s Secret Service not TSA
summoned from some hidden terminal
room to search my bags, talk me through
the process. My carry-on flagged for protein
bars that might be plastique, & I failed
the swab test, some residue battery acid
or fertilizer on my fingertips. I’m lucky
my passport’s blue though it’s summer so
I’m swarthier than usual. Like crows
hovering fresh carrion, so many gawkers
—heading for vacation, heading for home—
have gathered. They point. They whisper.
Who knew excitement might start before
boarding. Will they look for me on their planes?
It doesn’t help I’ve packed several copies of
The Story of Ash among shirts & socks.
It’s not a manifesto, I assure. Four other agents
ransack the backpack my laptop’s in,
not one cracks a joke. I’m lucky
I’m white. I know. I’m lucky they’re looking out
for me, I remind myself. I need to believe that
despite news stories of ICE & the border patrol
every uniform isn’t bad. Hell, in their badge photos
they’re smiling, each of them. One explains
how he’ll pat me down with the back of his hands,
now; later in another room after another failure
it’ll be fronts of hands that search my arms & legs,
ankles & waistband. They won’t be frowning,
just serious, wary. I worry too much. They find
nothing for there’s nothing to find. It’s due diligence.
I put my shoes back on. Re-pack my suitcase.
I’m leaving the United States fora few weeks,
but I’ll be back, I whisper, almost a warning.