I’m Done Worrying About Barbed Wire and Borders

A. Van Jordan

... and what I hear on the radio or read in the paper,

              after I tear my doo-rag off my head and enjoy

my morning coffee like most Americans I know.

I just want to start my day, imagining

              all the people I see outside getting here for the first time,

trying to do their thing while I do mine.

But the news persists ...

Later, after a stranger pulls himself from the Straits of Gibraltar,

              after death in the water and resurrection on the shore,

maybe after he had all but given up until he realized

no one watched his body light the border,

              worrying the citizens and haunting the politicians,

after newspapers turned to his travels

between phrases without translation

              and decided to headline the morning with his movement,

hand over hand and one foot before the other,

as if his hands and his feet belonged to someone

              other than his own free will,

his appendages kept moving toward

his need for generations of family to flee,

              and, after all of that, someone, someone

next door to me or down the street, decided to fear his journey.

Well, I can’t worry about all that. There are too many citizens

              making life difficult for those born here. I just imagine

this daring stranger clinging to a man’s shoulders at sunrise

on the border of a desert, or, let’s say, falling asleep

              with a face buried in a woman’s hair in a bed

next to an ocean as waves rise and fall over them

like small chances at life and small risks of death.

              Then, someone already living down the street,

hears of the stranger’s arrival at the edge

of our neighborhood, even this neighbor who knows

              what it means to hold another close,

will work against desire. They ask me: Did you hear the news?

I just shake my head, ear buds on blast, as I walk away. I’m tired

              of news of what Fearless Leader has to say, so I shut it off,

and let Boris and Natasha take it all in their inner ears.

Not that I’m scared.

              I’m just done being told that what I’m feeling isn’t pain.

I mean, I was born here. I know.

Dear Neighbor,

what is it like to work in a barbed wire factory?

              I’m asking my neighbors in Peoria, IL, or San Antonio, TX,

or Columbia, SC, working in barbed-wire plants,

trying to feed their child’s needy grasp

              and, more likely, to pay their 30-year mortgages,

keeping them free in the land of summers.

I want to know when you rise from bed in the morning

              to feed steel through the teeth of a roller,

steel heated to 2,192 degrees Fahrenheit to make pliable

its desired contours, woven and braided, three billets

              ferried into three spools, two to twist, and a third,

from the side of these two, to jag its woven edges, to jag them sharp

along a shoreline, behind a golf course, beside an otherwise

              free clearing of space, until, finally,

a stranger’s bent frame appears before this chorded wall of razor,

a mirror of his future, a portal through which

              vistas come into view just up ahead, our stranger’s invisible will still

commanding his soul, or her hands, or their feet to climb

and to cross, out of sight, forever. How do you feel at the end of your day?

              Well, I’m done worrying about what you feel. Be quiet

for now. I’m speaking to our strangers when I say, keep coming but stay ready:

there will be more borders to cross

              once we break inside ...

about the author