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,
That the Spanish-speaking people
Make it so—
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.
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
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
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.