Monday, February 8, 2010

The Back 40 and other Underground Tales

From 25,000 feet our country
looks like a desperate act of geometry
As if the Gods of Aztlan, in a last attempt at prophecy
threw thunderbolts
from the roof of the Sony Maquila
And collapsed the border wall
into a giant flat screen
So we could all look the same to them

The topography is killing us

Or perhaps it was aliens
playing laser games with landscape
In an intergalactic contest to see
how many bank-approved shapes
Could be jammed into an irregular continent

There are 40 squares in a section of land

Roads and natural features
Our children's response
to coloring inside the lines
A rebellion of vermacelli and fistfuls of sand
hurled across checkerboard yards
Our Euro-obsession with rectangularity
stamps remnant hills and forests
Random waves conclude with stoplight precision
But in the twilight of red farm dust and cricket nods
When noone can see them
The rows sigh and shake off the long, linear day
As dog’s ear casts a fly

Fingers of water appear
then disappear under boundary fences
forced underground in silent streams
You, water, giver of life and soil
You are not wanted here
You create and destroy
Like the lover
That submerges us, as we gasp for more
and other times
Pulses, embedding the echos of waves
Before evulsing to other valleys
We tried to redefine you
Paint you with familiar colors
Herd you into shimmering corrals
and brand you with sexy French names
And childhood memories of instant chocolate
Taking what we want and need
But never with enough distance
to avoid the collateral damage
So we erected levees, dams
diverted and shared you with others,
Flushed you with estro-prozac cocktails and filed for custody
To make you stay

You were always just passing through

We never learned from those
Whose lives we stole
their knowledge thrown into arroyos
with grizzle and bones after the feast
We never intended to reshape our existence
beyond the bought and paid
Knowing this
You went away sadly
Sinking into sands of doubt
Evaporating into desert skies.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

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