Tuesday, February 15, 2011

American Dream (Poem)

Nancy Davis Rosback, McDowell Mountain Regional Park
Scottsdale, Arizona, February 2011
© Nancy Davis Rosback Used With Permission

American Dream

   [T]he survival information is encoded 
     in the grammar of the language.
     ~ Leslie Marmon Silko, The Turquoise Ledge*

The desert is the obstacle,
and he who knows runs both

hot and cold, with and against
the coyotes standing ground

for the drop-off, hungry to collect
what earth-toned hands might

press into night's gloved palms.
Where the rattler sings

to a slip of moon, words
spin silence their companion,

steps between arroyos leaving
no before, no after, the land

absorbing the heat of bodies bent
on making it, the accident of birth

what makes the choice so easy.
Build a wall west to east, stretch

the wire barbed with the scent
of men secreting in a thicket

of prickling cactus, measure
their time at risk by the whiteness

of bones they've blessed in passing.
Trickle become flood, they come, still,

this land the one for a reason,
that land their call to home.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

Special thanks to photographer Nancy Davis Rosback for permission to use this image from her recent travels in Arizona. To see more of Nancy's wonderful work, visit a little somethin'.

* Leslie Marmon Silko, The Turquois Ledge (Viking 2010), p. 46.

"Coyotes" is slang for those who, for a price, smuggle the undocumented across the Mexican-U.S. border. A kind of survival guide for those making the crossing warns against coyotes, polleros [literally, chicken herders], and pateros [duck herders]. A New York Times post on the guide is here.

I offer this poem for this week's "One Shot Wednesday" event at One Stop Poetry, which each week invites poets to share and read each other's work. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.


Glynn said...

I love Nancy's photograph. And your peom is an eloquent description of those who cross the desert borders seekign what they cannot find at home.

Cassandra Frear said...

"The land absorbing the heat of bodies." Love that image. For some reason, it makes me think of large cities where the temperature is as much as 10 degrees higher than the surrounding country.

S. Etole said...

Your words and her image ... a powerful combination.

Kathleen Overby said...

How do you do this? :) Songs and movies came flooding to be incorporated into this vista you paint with words.

Ami Mattison said...

I love the way you manage to speak a commentary on a significant socio-political issue and do so with such poetic grace and beauty.

I'm particularly struck by "words/ spin silence their companion" and how that phrase segues into the next stanza. And the ending is spot on.

Anonymous said...

there is beauty in this place
of vast harshness
as long a one can survive it

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Beautiful poem, Maureen, with all senses and the heart open to the the beauty of a land we scar with the barriers we erect and to the plight of those driven to find their way through them.

I just clicked on the link to your book and was delighted to find that there is now a kindle edition, which I promptly purchased and downloaded. Although I would cherish the fetishistic pleasure of having a much appreciated blog friend's book in my hands, living out of the country as I do, I find kindle hugely practical.

Really looking forward to reading it.

Timoteo said...

I just watched a movie called MACHETE, an intriguing commentary on this subject, if you can stomach all the violence in the film.

All borders are in our minds.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful sense of the land. I like this poem a lot!

Hannah Stephenson said...

The sounds are really good in this one, too (not just the big thoughts resounding in the lines)---"prickling" and "risk," and "scent of men" "in a thicket."

I like how prickly those sounds are at the end---not hugely painful, just disquieting enough...

Brian Miller said...

this is a feast for the senses...so many great desciptors of touch and sound...nice...

Padmavani said...

Couple of months ago I watched a documentary on illegal migration of Mexicans into the US. Where people want to escape poverty, unemployment, the mafia and general hopelessness to the land of opportunity... of hope...

I love reading poems that comment on our socio-economic, political realities and you did such a great job in so few lines.


Anonymous said...

For me, this posits the contemporary plight of desperate people crossing illicit deserts -- with all present fangs spread to devour them -- against a far older sense of the land, landscape as grammar, a song one sings as they cross over. Aborigines know hundreds of songlines based on landscape; the world is their hymnal, each transit a paean. Very nice. -- Brendan

patriciacaspers said...

Powerful poem, Maureen.

I especially enjoyed these lines:
"what earth-toned hands might press into night's gloved palms.

Where the rattler sings
to a slip of moon"

So many great sounds.

Did you happen to see mine on SheWrites? They could be companion pieces.

Valerie said...

Good images, and some excellent line breaks in here. Well done.

Brock Stephen Henning said...

Wow, Maureen. Brilliant poetry. Living in Colorado, stories of border crossings consistently make the news. You paint a vivid picture.

Anonymous said...

"words spin silence their companion" ~ I love this Maureen and those words so well placed, something in it I feel such a close connection of meaning to. Excellent writing! ~April

Kavita said...

The metaphor here is simply par excellence, my friend..
"the accident of birth" -- that really spoke volumes, especially in this context!!

The dreams that held within those eyes, the things they go thru' to live those dreams... it's so well described and expressed here...
A powerful read!

Shashidhar Sharma said...

Dear Maureen

Ahh!! Very evocative... and your lines ....
'absorbing the heat of bodies bent
on making it, the accident of birth'
got me thinking a lot... and relate to it very much...

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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