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Across the Border













Daily Dispatches

 

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing

— T.S. Eliot, from East Coker


1. Mornings …

 

I must again urge myself out of the restless fog

of this nightmare, put on clothes

the man I used to be

 

once wore, gather documents and drive off

in light rain to the checkpoint,

lowering the window,

 

handing the guard a file, beseeching him

as I had done the day before,

and the day before that,

 

glazed eyes begging to take pity on me,

please let me pass, go home

to that sweet house

 

in the woods, the long and easy front porch,

Persian rugs on wood floors, worn

couch, family photos

 

climbing all the way up the creaky staircase,

but the stone-faced sentry only

shakes his head,

 

a mechanical voice crackling through a speaker:

Address not on list of known domiciles,

a gloved hand reaching across

 

the breathless chasm, curling passport stapled

to the folder, bold letters stamped

across the blue cover:

 

DEPORTED

 

 

2. Afternoons …

 

I wander this unfamiliar landscape,

a ghost searching for the undaunted man

I used to be in store windows,

 

in stagnant ponds, in the eyes

of people who don’t know I’ve lost my place,

a homeless soul poking through

 

dumpsters for fond memories,

searching for trap doors under rugs, passwords

I’ve forgotten, a hidden path

 

over the mountain to take me back

to the old country, leaves on trees, vegetables

in the garden, grandkids in the treehouse,

 

me sitting in a porch rocker, azaleas

in bloom, phoebes in their nest under the eaves

sweat on my brow after mowing

 

the sweet green grass, a car

I recognize coming down the long driveway,

a pitcher of iced tea on the glass table.

 


 3. Evenings …

 

I watch Jeopardy, Wheel

of Fortune, turn up the volume

on soft rock, stand at the refrigerator without

 

hunger, filling starless nights with empty calories,

pointless distractions, writing bad poems

of unbearable sorrow

 

as burnt offerings to the stone-

faced guard, hoping against all hope

to catch him off-guard when I show up in the next

 

restless nightmare, another fruitless attempt to play

on his sympathies, convince him to let me

pass, but each night he slaps

 

the pages from my hand, barbed

wire grimace crossing his face as he points

the rifle behind at the line of idling cars, blurred

 

faces through rainy windshields, a faint whisper

from his twisted mouth, "You

are not alone here."

 

—SL, New Paltz, NY, December 2023

 

 

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