They fought like hell
over that border, I’m told.
The Tigers and the Free Staters
Hating each other to death,
shoot on sight.
These days, you can find the
rumpled shirts and smoke stained fingers
of their aging children nubbing down
the old wooden pencils, playing KENO
at the Twin Cities Tavern.
You cross the street from one
Kansas City to the other. You hear
more Spanish than you used to. Even
the Boulevard signs read Cerveza sometimes.
It was called no man’s land, and I was
there in the dark. Get off the bus, stand
in line, pay your shillings (Kenyan or Tanzanian are fine.
Hell, dollars are fine, they’ll buy you most things out here).
The money changers are fine if they have an ID around
their neck, someone told me. That didn’t stop one
from passing on a counterfeit 1000 note. The guy
selling Ferry tickets to Zanzibar caught it; the waiter
at the Freddy Mercury restaurant caught it; even the Dolla-Dolla
driver caught it.
But in the dark, between stops, between days, between nations
carved out by somebody else, one time way back when, it’s
hard to catch anything, much less a mistake. It’s hard to
know what real is in no man’s land.
But tear gas is real.
I know that beach and fence. I’ve stared through it from
the Tijuana side, watching a handful of families enjoy the morning
surf. I could stick my fingers through it, feel someone’s American
dream on the breeze. I’ve heard the unquieting silence. But that was
years ago, that day when we waited and waited and waited to get back in.
But even then, the silence held the inevitable threat of the future. And
as is the case in all our dystopian dreams, that future is today.
There is nothing quiet about today.
There is a sacred ambiguity that comes from those places
in between. Burning bushes, burning tires, burning desire
to reach the other side.
With the slogging weight of nativity
burros carrying us across ambiguous straits,
May our unquieting come.