Looking in the mirror, we stand side by side,
rubbing against each other like friendly countries,
open borders running from our shoulders to our hips.

It’s morning at our checkpoints and ours is a world
in which all directions are west, the sun rising everywhere,
and though the shadows are long, they are beautiful.
Night is the departed stranger.

Life goes on, as They say and—after the ribbon’s been cut,
the bands have marched away, and the friendly songs are all sung—
suspicious officials check the crossing traffic,
misconstruing an unopened carton of cigarettes
or the unknown thing lying beneath a folded jacket.
And, this truck here! The one with the rust and the dents,
the wobbling wheels and tubercular engine. The one
with the shifty eyed driver in need of a shave!

Worse yet, who are these refugees begging at the gates,
clamoring for our attention? Such a ragged, needful,
ungrateful mob. Everyone feels frightened and angry!
Well-fed burghers look to their watches in alarm,
reach for their pitchforks, and rush to the passes.

Borders imply dialogue: at best, in different dialects
of the same good intentions; At worst, in artillery shells
falling on the dead shadows of magnesium flares.
Above our thin atmospheres, in perfect vacuum,
lies blinding light, lies final night.
But the mystery keeps us reaching even as our
fingers grow cold, curl, and shrivel.

What we see, we see alone.

Stephen Longfellow is a graduate of the Vermont College
MFA Writing Program. His poetry has appeared in Café Review,
Diner, Edgz, Locuspoint, Talking River. A personal essay
has appeared in Under the Sun.

© 2008 Underground Voices