Illustration by Livia Falcaru

I am the border agent who looks
the other way. I am the one
who leaves bottled water in caches
in the harsh borderlands I patrol.

I am the one who doesn’t shoot.
I let the people assemble,
with their flickering candles a shimmering
river in the dark. “Let them pray,”
I tell my comrades. “What harm
can come of that?” We holster
our guns and open a bottle to share.

Pamela S. Wynn 10-22-2019

Illustration by Livia Falcaru

Save for the sun, the nearest star
is more than twenty-five million
million miles away.

What has a single star
shining in Bethlehem
to do with us?

Julie L. Moore 9-23-2019

Ground cochineal insects used for dye.

Darling of Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs, cochineal

conquered the ever-expanding world—

borne of female coccids boiled, dried, and ground

fine as dust, then woven with water, coaxing color

vibrant as any pink peppercorn, dye so prized,

long before Spain came, natives bred the prickly pear

on which the insects fed to bear fewer spines,

so, horsetail in hand, they could brush the parasites

8-05-2019

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

I am Peter at Gethsemane
where I wake to oak
branches suspended,
spinning like hair in water.

Flora’s night
blanched, a prophet’s
chanting, every caesura’s
quiet steeping, transfiguring
grief to alms.

Albert Haley 7-03-2019

Illustration by Jon Krause

Why wouldn’t they drop by, stare up
approvingly at the point of the minaret?

Perpetual connoisseurs of the loving work
of centuries, the stacked stones, nails pounded
until synagogues, temples, shrines
little houses of worship rise from the land.

Richard Schiffman 6-03-2019

Illustration by MUTI

This seep of droplets sponged by moss leaked
from a cleft in the rock; the waters in the cleft
rose osmotically from earth:
the aquifers of earth rained down
from cloudburst skies;

Ronnie Sirmans 4-25-2019

A white blossom, purpled
at the edges like penance,
lies under an unbloomed tree.

Stephen Wing 3-25-2019

You can’t blame me for flinching
back against the wall
when a small boy points his
pistol at me and yells “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

I am lying back there somewhere
feeling the sidewalk as if I’d never touched
sunshine, pumping out my urgent
puddle

A.M. Lawrence 2-25-2019

In deep thirst, a desert stag will tear
open saguaro ribs with his teeth
and gorge on succulent heart, living sap.

This morning desire and grief for You
are the same ache. Welcome, hurt.
Enter and feast on my flesh. Become love.

Adele Hoffman 1-24-2019

I know you believe you are doing God’s work when you ask me
“Are you a Christian?” and instantly retort to my “No” with “Why not?”

I know you do not know how the hairs stand up on the back of my neck
when first you question my failure to embrace Jesus as my Lord and Savior
and then interrupt with that world-weary “Ahhh ...” as I say,
“Well, my mother’s family was Jewish— ”

Jonathan Rowe 11-20-2018

“The last will be first, and the first will be last.” —Matthew 20:16

I know what I am:
an earthen vessel guiding cows, goats, and sheep’s
chaotic feeding, their chorus of maws bleating,
baying, snapping open and shut a celebration

Jane Simpson 10-25-2018

Be still. Don’t forget how the Earth shifted—
dinner plates with clean breaks in smashed boxes—
and lands became continents, broken homes.

Philip C. Kolin 9-26-2018

On your mother’s side Abyssinian slaves,
grandees from Spain on your father’s.
How could someone dark
as a Dominican’s cappa with a burnt
oak face and a halo of knotted hair
be the patron of holiness?
Barbering and sweeping were not
causes for sainthood.
 

I am the tiny, irate, scolding person
standing in the dome of my own skull.
She shakes her head again, arms crossed, again
disappointed: I’m clumsy, struggling, dull.

Then there’s the shattered wine glass,
an afternoon misspent, a dinner gobbled,
rank laundry, unpaid bills, uncut grass,
and, I suspect, one lovely friendship bobbled.

And yet, I’m here.         Alive.

Ayari Marie Aguayo 7-02-2018

When we lose our dreams
To be educated
And are afraid
Of being incarcerated

We pray to you
Dios te salve, María,

When we don’t know
Where to go
To be a Sitting Bull
Or a Standing Rock

We pray to you
llena eres de gracia,

When your naturaleza
Showed us no mercy
And the politicians
Shut down our Borinquen

We pray to you
el Señor esta contigo.

When we’ve picked
All the grapes
Without an actual
Bathroom break

We pray to you
Bendita eres

When our hermanas Negras
Are being maimed
And ashamed
By racism, sexism, bigotry

We pray to you
entre todas las mujeres,

When we fight for
Farm workers’ rights
While hiding from
Our men’s grips at night

We pray to you
y bendito es el fruto

Da'Shawn Mosley 6-01-2018

This mourning begins with eyes:
ours which open
and the eyes a gun closed,
the barrel a chamber in which there is found no heart,
for every latch and mechanism of the machine moves with menace
and every finger entangled and wound around its trigger
draws closed the stage curtains of peace.

This mourning begins with flesh—
our stance under a persistent sun
as a body stretches across a coroner’s table like the hide of a deer.
In such an occasion, a body’s bullet holes
become mouths. They speak of the perils our muscles
hope not to know. They reveal what it’s like
to be whole and come undone
and linger like litter.

Parkland.
Pulse.
Emanuel.
Columbine.

For you, we combine this mourning
with the mournings that have become before it.

Sharon Murfin 5-02-2018

Prayer is invisible and advisably secret.
If we could hear the inaudible contents
it might sound like the roiling of a mighty river
over scrabbly rocks, or the whirr of infinite
prayer wheels generating the world-winds
atop some hidden mountain.

All I know is that the breath of the heart
escapes its bounds.
The tail of the comet streaks into the ether
burning faster than any silver bullet.

It doesn’t stick in the brain to recoil and rewind,
but flies like a light-arrow toward the stars
by force of desire returning home.
Before the bow-string stops vibrating
it has traveled around the world three times.

Troy D. Reeves 4-25-2018

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where
was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
The Pilgrim’s Progress

I stand at the edge of these sharded cliffs
Time and the sea have splintered away
From this rotten stump of island,
Fit only for felons and the likes of me.
The glorious ocean spreads out of sight,
Moving, moving, with no signs of life.
But, beneath the calm I know there lies
An empire old as the birth of time,
A kingdom swollen with citizenry:
Jellyfish, groupers, turtles, rays,
Serpents splitting the currents like grass,
Sharks and the fearsome leviathan.
Freedom? You can’t get there from here.
But from where I stand I could leap out,
Crash through blue mist coiling the shore,
Mesh with the pebbles that constitute
The thread of beach strung out below,
And wait for Jesus to remember me.
On the other hand, I could just crawl
Back into my cave, do my best to ignore
The lost years charcoaled on the walls
And the stench of human occupation,
Lie down, stretch out, fold my hands
Behind my head, and close my eyes,
My last thoughts being, before sleep:
If the deep blue holds such mystery,
What must the secrets of heaven be?

Mark Hiskes 4-25-2018
Indypendenz / Shutterstock

Indypendenz / Shutterstock 

Here, nobody stands
for the national anthem.
There’s no debate about
universal healthcare,
no talk of bigger border
walls or who will pay.
Here no one snapchats,
sends selfies or sexts. Google
steals no one’s idle hours.
No political parties here,
no signs to say white
lives matter too: everyone
gets it here. There’s no
NRA, no second amendment,
no bumper-sticker zealots
declaring “if you can read
this you’re in range.”
                                 No,
here at the Pilgrim Home,
just across from the summer
play of a city pool, it’s all
cut-granite reverence
for beloved son, daughter,
dearest husband, moeder,
madre. On this level
expanse no fences
separate black and white,
they enclose. In this green
space the Mexican lies down
with the Dutch, and under
fresh rectangles the refugee
rests with the rich.
                               Here,
old, sleepy spruces cast
long layers of shadow
among the graves. Lilies
and orchids and roses revere
each silent name and date
and the brief dash between—
briefer than an evening walk,
than a child’s splash.