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Poem: Refugees, Late Summer Night






Woke with a start, the dogs
barking out by the fence,
yard flooded with
light. Groped my way
to the window.
Out on the road a dozen quick
figures hugging to shadows:
bundles slung at their shoulders
& water jugs at their hips. You
could hear, under the rattle of
wind, as they passed, the crunch of
sneakers on gravel. Pollos. Illegals
who’d managed to slip past the
Border Patrol, its Broncos
& choppers endlessly circling the
canyons & hills between here & Tecate.
Out there, in the dark, they could have
been anyone: refugees from Rwanda,
slaves pushing north.
Palestinians, Gypsies, Armenians, Jews….
The lights of Tijuana, that yellow
haze to the west, could have
been Melos, Cracow, Quang Ngai….
I watched from the window till they were lost in
the shadows. Our motion light turned itself off.
The dogs gave a last, perfunctory bark
& loped back to the house: those dry, rocky hills
& the wild sage at the edge of the canyon
vanishing too. Then stared out at nothing.
No sounds anymore but my own breath
& the papery click of the wind in the leaves
of that parched eucalyptus: a rattle
of bones. Chimes in a doorway
History riffling its pages.


Source: Crossing Borders, published by Spuyten Duyvil, 2010.

Steve Kowit is the author of In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop. His most recent collection of poetry is The First Noble Truth. An outspoken critic of U.S. war crimes, he lives in the hills near the California-Mexico border, where, if the need arises, he can be out of the country in minutes.  See him read Refugees, Late Summer Night on YouTube.

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