One El Paso, Two El Paso
By Ray Gonzalez
Awake in the desert to the sound of calling.
Must be the mountain, I thought.
The violent border, I assumed, though the boundary
line between the living and the dead was erased years ago.
Awake in the sand, I feared, old shoes decorated with
razor wire, a heaven of light on the peaks.
Must be time to get up, I assumed. Parked outside,
Border Patrol vehicles, I had to choose.
Awake to follow immigration shadows vanishing inside
American walls, river drownings counted as they cross,
Maria Salinas’ body dragged out, her mud costume
pasted with plastic bottles and crushed beer cans,
black water flowing to bless her in her sleep.
Must be the roar of illegal death, I decided,
a way out of the current, though satellite maps never
show the brown veins of the concrete channel.
Awake in the arroyo of a mushroom cloud, I choke,
1945 explosion in the sand, eternal radioactive wind,
the end of one war mutating the border into another
that also requires fatal skills of young men because few
dream the atomic bomb gave birth in the Jornado,
historic trail behind the mountain realigned, then cut
off from El Paso, the town surrounded with barbed
wire, the new century kissing car bombs, drug cartels,
massacres across the river, hundreds shot in ambushes
and neighborhood soccer games that always score.
Wake up, I thought, look south to the last cathedral
in Juarez before its exploding bricks hurtle this way.
Make the sign of the cross, open your eyes to one town,
two cities, five centuries of praying in the beautiful dust.