by Theodore Richards


Far before I reach the border,

Landscapes and languages begin to change.

English is spoken only occasionally;

In the dusty plains of southTexas—

A place that prides itself on its Americanness,

Not realizing

That the Spanish-speaking people

Make it so—

Mexicocomes gradually,

Long before the border.

The snakes and the birds tell me, too,

That I have already reached a place far different

From the one I have left,

Even before I have gotten there.

The world we have paved

And drawn lines upon

In our fear of its vague and subtle

Grayness.  Its slow fade

From one land to the next

In stark contrast to the comforting abruptness

Of guards and currency exchanges.


Do they

Consider the birds of the air…

The lilies of the field,

When they draw those lines,

Even as they hold Bibles

(Written in English) in hand?

The birds fly past those borders,

The lily-seeds find fertile soil on both sides.


We tell ourselves that the lines between nations

Are real

As if we know what the real really is.

Is it real because it exists on paper,

And in concrete walls built by men,

And in still harder, higher walls in our minds?

The snakes and birds, then,

Must not be real,

For they pass over and through with ease.

And people, in spite of our ideas,

Pass through, too,

Following the money on which we all depend

For survival.


These people must not be real, then:

Who move silently through the desert,

Searching for work from which others hide;

Who pick our vegetables and in their struggles

Make them cheaper.

We seem not to care

That they speak strange tongues

As we gorge ourselves

In the bloated supermarkets of entitlement.

Do we taste their suffering

In our grapes? Their struggles

In our greens?


In this backward world

In which borders are crossed daily,

Even on city buses,

In which money is real value

And lines on a map,

So allusive on the dusty borders of


Are more real

Than the dust itself.


LaPesca,Mexico, 2003

Featured Image by Duncan George | Text originally appear on www.theodorerichards.com