"Teething Borders"

July 1, 2019

 

Teething Borders

 

 

“Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.”

 

—Gloria Anzaldúa

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)

 

      ~

 

Our daughter won’t stop crying,

so we massage her red, swollen gums

with our fingers. We sing: “Row, row, row

your boat, gently down the stream,

merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is

but a dream.” On the news,

a makeshift boat carrying refugees

capsized in the Mediterranean.

Those with life jackets float like bright

yellow teeth. The others: swallowed

by the sea’s territorial mouth.

How many fled thirst, the vanishing

of Lake Chad, the floods in East Africa?

How many escaped Boko Haram,

poverty, and war? How many more

will be desiccated by the Sahara desert,

or macerated by traffickers at Libya’s

salivating shore? How many will survive

only to be gnawed by Europe’s jaws?

 

Our daughter won’t stop crying,

so we give her a teething ring

to chew. We sing: “Row, row, row

your boat, gently down the stream,

merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is

but a dream.” On the news, refugees

from Central and South America

are detained at the border and separated

from their children—some are so young

they still have their baby teeth. Others

are unaccompanied. How many fled

drug cartels and abusive men,

maquiladoras and drought? How many

more will be devoured by La Bestia,

dehydrated by the Sonoran desert,

and torn apart by La Migra’s incisors?

How many will survive only to be spit out

from America’s rotting cavities?

 

Our daughter won’t stop crying,

so we give her a cold bottle to nurse.

We sing: “Row, row, row your boat,

gently down the stream, merrily,

merrily, merrily, merrily, life is

but a dream.” On the news, Trump

inspects border wall prototypes.

They say, more than half of all border

walls on earth have been built since 2001,

“justified” by the wars on terror.

But refugees are not the true terror.

The true terror is that 34,000 people

are forced from their homes every day,

and by the end of this year, 65 million

will be uprooted, and in the coming years,

climate change will displace millions more—

half will be children. Refugees are not

the true terrorists. The true terrorists

are nations that create the migrant crisis,

and nations that refuse to offer refuge

(often, they are one and the same).

 

Our daughter won’t stop crying,

so we cradle her in our arms, skin to skin,

and sing: “Row, row, row your boat,

gently down the stream, merrily, merrily,

merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

When she finally closes her eyes,

we lay her down in bed and surround

her with pillows. On the news,

a “caravan of migrants” approaches

our teething borders. Let us not

turn them away. Let us bridge

them across the wounded borderlands

until those once forbidden are now
family, until those once prohibited

are now protected. Let us build

a tender country, where the only

document needed for citizenship 

is a dream of sanctuary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Pacific Islander (Chamoru) from Guahan (Guam). He is the author of four collections of poetry and the co-editor of four anthologies. He works as an associate professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, where he teaches Pacific literature, creative writing, and eco-poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload