HS Community Service, 2011. Agua Prieta, Sonora, México
It is summer, the air congested,
thick as lumpy mud.
The leader of the community center
that houses those deported
from the land of milk and honey
pass water bottles to each student.
Through the vertical grates of metal wall
that cut through Agua Prieta
like a great serpent, Douglas,
the Promised Land--
we can see it.
In Las Vegas
Mexico, at the death of summer,
the smell of green and red
chile peppers fill the nostrils.
Strolling the streets of Agua Prieta
when the fire
of the sun finally wanes,
chile peppers and tamales in the air,
Mexico is not new.
When I say the words
over and over again,
I can hear the New
growing coyote teeth;
I can hear the New’s biting echo
spilling into Mexico,
like the hellish screams of a desert sun.
At the community center, we
hop on the truck with the deported,
each hand carrying a bottle of water.
In the Chihuahuan desert, the trees
and cacti whistle a tune I know--
one desert for another.
among us know the commonest route,
and there, we place
the water bottles at random.
I say a prayer over mine.
On our way back to Las Vegas,
Mexico, a sullen silence suffocates the van.
We don’t know if the thing
we did was worth it;
we don’t know if a family
cutting through the Chihuahuan Desert
to get to the Promised Land
will find our water bottles--
we had to disguise it,
so the authorities wouldn’t find it
and spill the precious water on the parched earth.
At the border,
they won’t let us in.
They take Fatima
to the border office
and we wait and wait and wait--
perhaps they are calling President
Barrack Hussein Obama,
or the Afghani ambassador--
if this hijabi girl is a threat to the security of the nation.
After many hours,
in that hot van,
they finally let us through.
is an essayist and poet from Windhoek, Namibia. He graduated from the Rutgers-Camden MFA program in 2021. He has poetry published in Doek! Literary Magazine and an essay forthcoming in Columbia: Journal of Literature and Art. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.