Border Crossings

By David Wojahn b. 1953 David Wojahn
Bottles on the closet floor,   
       bottles underneath the bed.
               Of course he thinks he’s caused

it all. The hiding places   
       unimaginative, the vodka’s
               glass sides clear when empty,

clear when full, like the cellophane   
       -transparent plastic skin
               of the model he glued together

thirty years ago, The Visible   
       Man, the tiny organs in
               “authentic colors,” kelly green lungs

and scarlet heart. But he’s trying,
       as they say, to reside in the moment,   
               stuffing the duffel bag

to bring her where she’s trembling
       on the ward, where she’s hating both   
               herself and him, passing four

locked doors to reach her, as if each   
       were some frontier checkpoint   
               to a country even farther

distant than the one he’s trapped
       in now. The zebra-striped gate,
               the guards who hold his documents

against the light, peering through
       the watermarks and faded passport stamps.   
               And he knows his skin is glass,

his mission shame, and shame
       the lingua franca of these lands,   
               the sign language of fingers

unzipping compartments
       with a nylon hiss, to probe
               her sweaters, jeans, and stockings,

(the toothpaste tube uncapped
       and sniffed) and shame the notebook   
               and the novels he’s brought her,

riffled and shut with a strange
       and final delicacy, and shame
               the signal that motions him on.

David Wojahn, “Border Crossings” from The Falling Hour. Copyright © 1997. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Falling Hour (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997)

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Poet David Wojahn b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Health & Illness, Living

Biography

Ever since his first collection, Icehouse Lights, was chosen for the Yale Series of Younger Poets award in 1981, David Wojahn has been one of American poetry’s most thoughtful examiners of culture and memory. His work often investigates how history plays out in the lives of individuals, and poet Tom Sleigh says that his poems “meld the political and personal in a way that is unparalleled by any living American poet.”

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Health & Illness, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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