Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Border Crossings

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Border Crossings

Article excerpt

1/On the Train

Outback of the mind. Shiver of the fens

in oily desolation staining the swamp water

frozen over. Newark up ahead, the telephoto lens

of the heart homing in on a dead son or daughter.

If you wait long enough, the oil tanks and refineries

will stand up cleanly in the train windows

while light falling through itself falls through the gantries

trapping waste ground and weeds in cats-cradle shadows.

And in the ghost train the guy in uniform scared to be going

reminds me of you, pinned up on my wall,

Sgt. K. I. S. discharged Jan. 17 in Chaffee, Arkansas:

eyes averted from the stares of the living

who never called your name at roll call or mail call

and, failing to take your hand then, can't do so now.

2 /Trash Flowers

When you look at them, they look right back:

bareheaded survivors, one-eyed, soot-choked,

growing up out of rubble. The anti-garden where

whatever takes root just happens to find home

across the border from kids scrawling their names on bombs.

And among weeds camouflaging a fire-gutted tank,

a donkey, grazing, sniffs at the hot armor,

a stream of piss hissing past its flank . . . …

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