This Desert Quiet

jacal y yo

Maybe in El Paso. That’s the greatest allowance any River resident I’ve met so far has made for the Homeland Security concept: these proposed miles of “discrete” border fencing (y tactical infrastructure, tambien) on either side of Presidio and upstream at Neely’s Crossing. Maybe in El Paso.

I’m camped on a low hill in Redford, Texas. My friend who offered the space steers the only vehicle on the road tonight. This town that weathered the federales (U.S.) hit list with a single fatality — that of a young, smiling high school student is limping into dark. The clouds have blown past in a reviving wind. The full moon makes setting camp a fireless event even with the late start.

redford windmillA fine dinner of corn tortillas, refried beans, avocado, un poco chile. How many times I’ve heard the story of separation that comes with modern border policies, especially the cruel closure of a half dozen “unoffical” crossings in 2002, but I’m only beginning to see the meaning of the River as locals have lived it. The riverine habitat offers firewood in winter, where the hills are more stingy; healing plants akin to the ubiquitous castor oil of Interior childhoods, and building materials (mud for adobe and reeds). To be barred from those wet reaches, is to be decultured.

Not that it is illegal to walk to the river, mind you. Only you should be prepared for the green-and-white, a round of intrusive to aggressive questioning, and possibly, as local papers have recently reported, arrests over strong words uttered by one Redford resident who wanted La Migra to get off his land. Hello terroristic threat charges. We’re still awaiting the unofficial, official guidebook on interacting with the federal police forces (“down-cast eyes express submissiveness,” “if all else fails roll over on your belly,” etc.)

It’s not that there haven’t been drugs in and around Presidio — certainly condition as serious as those faced by West Virginia or Iowa’s methamphetamine addiction — but there is a mystery of kinship at work here during a time when so much of the country has given itself up for shallow roots and the transience of contemporary employment demands. Here along the forgotten reaches is something entirely different.

Here there is memory. It is the stiff wind, the moon, the rustle from the River.

Downstream, they are lining up for a long march…

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