Border triptych

Three poems for the Borderlands.


Marijuana stuffed in a bicycle tire, left. A bra found on the migration route along the Mexico-U.S. border, indicating sexual assault, center. A migrant’s feet after he walked for days through the Arizona desert, right.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Encarni Pindado; Louie Palu/Zuma Press

For the past fifteen years, six days a week, at half past eight,

Jorge has biked into my checkpoint station. He hawks

over his papers, allows me to examine his lunch box,

& then wheels off to his twelve hour shift at the pallet & crate


factory. I’m close to madness. I suspect

he’s been smuggling contraband, prescription or illegal.

He sports new toupees under a cap depicting an eagle

devouring a snake. He rides spit-shined bikes that I inspect


by taking them apart, checking inside the hollow

pipes, sometimes slicing open the tires, but so far, nothing.

Jorge always remains calm, & doesn’t say a damn thing.

Yesterday, a few days from my retirement, I swallowed


my pride, & swore, if he told me the truth, to keep my lips tight.

The bastard smiled, & casually replied, I smuggle bikes.



INS transcript, Sofia: I kept my mother’s advice

to myself. Before crossing the Tijuana/San Diego border,

in a bathroom stall, I sprinkled gelatin powder

on my underwear. We slipped through a fence like mice


& waited in a neighborhood park. Hourly, vans

arrived, & we were packed in, driven up river-wide asphalt

toward families, jobs. Sweat soaked our clothes, salted

our skin. Suddenly we stopped on an isolated road. Bandits


stepped from the trees. The men were forced face down

in a ravine. The women were ordered to undress at gunpoint.

I unbuckled my belt, lowered my jeans. Sweat,

gelatin powder had stained my underwear a reddish brown.


I was one of ten women. Our mouths were taped.

I was spit on. I was slapped. The other women were raped.



Sapo & I wait for the cool of night under mesquite.

Three days in the desert & we’re still too close to Mexico,

still so far from God. Sapo’s lips so dry he swabs the pus leaking

from the ampollas on his toes across his mouth. I flip a peso.


Heads: we continue. Tails: we walk toward the highway,

thumb our way back to Nogales. The peso disappears into a nest

but the hard-on in Sapo’s jeans, slightly curved, points west.

I catch a cascabel & strip off its meat. Sapo mutters, No que no güey.


I bury its forked tongue: for one night our names won’t flower

in the devil’s throat. We’re Indios but no grin-

go will mistake us for Navajos. Above us an owl grins

like Cantinflas. The arms of the saguaros strike down the hours


but the sun refuses to set. Sapo shits behind a cluster of nopales,

& shouts out our favorite joke, No tengo papeles!


for Gloria Anzaldúa

Eduardo C. Corral is the author of Slow Lightning, which won the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets. He is currently the writer-in-residence at North Carolina State University.