On Borders, November 2018

Monica Berlin

So, a window overlooking the sea, dusk at sky line & water its darkest dark already although the season early still. At the transom, etch of

barbed wire repeats, repeats something that resembles something like danger, like look out. Above this horizon, another fence reaching

up, separating us from cloud, from hopeful, from endless sky where — always looking out –this other country, always foreign, stays

unknowable. Of any series, I’d say, consider both vertical plane & the horizontal one, how sequence builds in time to mark a spatial angle

of history, of surrender. How passage to some -where might open out into some other else -where, some light up ahead. So, maybe we don’t

begin in the same place, but nearly, & the path not uncommon — a corner recognizable or that house we drive by in every season, forget to

notice. How to never forget such noticing: sketch by heart the lines, trace & retrace years until, in another state, across a river, a return, those marks

in relief we think to call memory that might not be ours. Yesterday, on the banks of the Rio Grande, troops called up arrived, pitched camp, strung up

along hundreds of miles at the border concertina wire, coiled & razored & meant to mean not a chance. On the banks of the Rio Grande, this

already fierce landscape, where the fencing’s crude, cruel, & even here, all these rooms narrow, & any welcome muffled. Let’s call that tool of division

something else, or better yet, take it down & bring out the instruments its name echoes & maybe then we could play a song — all angular, geometric, even sky,

a carved-out shape we’ve made our own & some -how shared, despite having disrupted the view with every last thing we hang in it. On the banks

of the Rio Grande, on the shore of every single day, the horizon a bleak near-future we’d take back if we could. If we could look elsewhere, we’d

remember tapestry, the hand-knotted craftsmanship that recalls how to honor what was. Who we were. What squares itself can mark another life we might

have walked on, each step a step without fear, edge, into what was real.

Monica Berlin is the author of Nostalgia for a World Where We Can Live, Elsewhere, That Small, and with Beth Marzoni, co-author of No Shape Bends the River So Long. The Henke Distinguished Professor of English at Knox College, she also serves as associate director of the Program in Creative Writing.