Woman as a River Between Borders

By Sheryl Luna Sheryl Luna
I. The Chihuahua Desert
I rose early to wash the desert grime, watch
the unearthly flight of doves, the way pigeons
were poisoned incorrectly or how an elephant
was beaten with a stick. This is the way
of beginnings, women charmed by fits of language,
the cadence of bees around garbage cans,
the laughter of grackles, hot sun baking Coca-Cola
to sidewalks. Tumbleweeds and arroyos hush
day-long trips through barrios.
I am sand. My eyes grainy, tears brown,
and what of the different tones of bees or flies,
how a sting can kill us?
I’m speaking the language of smokers,
lung-full and wary, breathing a refinery chore,
my eyes black pits, Historically
I was fruit, voluptuous and campy, some might say
exotic, cheekbones native, my hips swaying.
II. The Rio Grande
I grew into the silence of third person, a landscape,
a mesa. I flew hard into the silence of gray smog,
my chest burning, my throat dry with the songs
of women with sagging faces, children
strapped to their bent backs.
They have become a river metaphor, a border,
a soulless chant to believers. Maquiladora workers slain
and buried in shallow graves. My palms refuse
to fold in prayer and god giggles in my red ears.
Sand pecks my skin like a drum roll in the hot wind.
The march of children, their backpacks plastic,
the way they see color a mystery, a dance, the shapes
of clouds, an elephant, a dove, a long-lost dog. They sing
song their way past the factory-circus.
III. The Potomac
Years later I loved a blank-faced man in tweed
who drank espresso and ate bagels in a deli outside
Washington D.C. His pale face mirrored in the glass
at a video-store where he grumbled artless
and unfilled by the hurried ache
of cicadas. His first and last job in the world
of mundane labor. He was all red hair;
his voice bellowed.
Was it the seventh or tenth year he dubbed
my language, subtitled my screens? Windows
on the metro metalled sand tunneled.
I lost the desert dance of blood, half-forgot
the closed copper mine, the way the border’s earth
is lead-filled and sullen.
IV. The Vlatva
Awed by cathedrals in Paris, then Prague,
I was the archangel of rage with my book-bag,
a wordless hum. I began to speak with my hands,
my eyes Slavic dark, searching. I worshipped
fat swans along the thick river taking in the green
wondering why I had been blessed by such beauty.
I sensed him in a snowdrift of words historically
divine. And what was he or I in this world? I didn’t see
the gold specks in his eyes, the way poetry
became his glory, full of fan-fare and the strife
of strip malls. And here, envying his pristine days,
the way the books never cover his mouth,
our hearts pump separately to the rhythm of loss.

Sheryl Luna, “Woman as a River Between Borders” from Pity the Drowned Horses. Copyright © 2005 by Sheryl Luna. Reprinted by permission of Sheryl Luna.

Source: Pity the Drowned Horses (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005)

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Poet Sheryl Luna


Subjects Living, The Body, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, Class

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Sheryl  Luna


Sheryl Luna was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She earned her BA at Texas Tech University, an MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso, an MA in English from Texas Woman’s University, and a PhD in Contemporary Literature from the University of North Texas. Poets & Writers Magazine named Luna as one of the “18 Debut Poets who Made their Mark in 2005.”
Luna's first collection of poetry, Pity the Drowned Horses (2004), won . . .

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SUBJECT Living, The Body, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, Class


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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