Colorado State University Center for Literary Publishing

Excerpt from The Verging Cities


Angel buys a passport made at a print shop for fifty dollars—perfect
but for a hair stuck in the laminate by his date of birth. Not noticeable,

he says and I believe him. We walk across the bridge to Ciudad Juárez
and I expect there to be an explosion—for the streets to glow red.

It’s been five years since we’ve been back and the city is a ghost,
but the traffic is alive. It’s still a city, I say. Let’s go to a bar, he says.

We pose in faux fur with cigarettes for nightlife pictures, get vicious,
and leave at 3:00 a.m. I stumble in my platform heels and stop

at another bar to get drinks one last time in a to-go cup. By 3:30
I turn litterbug and throw our empties into the ink-stained street.

I brush my hands against the chain-link fence as we cross
the bridge back to El Paso. Cameras every ten feet—we smile

and kiss for them. Behind us a man yells, That’s it? That’s all you have for me,
murder capital of the world? Border agents wave us across—

I’m too white to tell and Angel looks clean enough, but one of us is illegal.
No one says a word—we all breathe pollution. To think we didn’t need

to get a visa. To think we could have saved the fifty dollars. Still easy,
we laugh and agree to cross again next weekend. We wonder

why we call each other Cielo, why we call each other Angel? We wonder
how two cities are split, how they swell. Watch how they collide.



When the Desert Made Us Visible

You forgot to weed your eyes, so brush
has grown wild in your stare.

A wall of dust can travel miles,
blind us, choke us, stain us,
but not kill us.

Travelers think there’s nothing in the desert;
they place themselves against
the bright mica and make it theirs.

They believe they are the first ones
to discover desert.

As though, in discovering desert, they could
populate it with trees
and dark mosses.

Because there are days the desert brings the sky
closer to my fingers,
closer to you—
I forgive the traveler.

You are the darkest places
of sparse and perfect language.

You are the darkest places
in the cloud’s shadow.



A Mass Grave Washed

with light from a moon
one year rising. Out of the earth

a thousand mouths surface, open
lipped and teething from the ground
that held them. A collection

of limbs all reaching for the cloud
that’s come to sit so low the desert

chilled. Clothes are the first things
missing. An armpit: a mouth. A knee:
another mouth. The eye: a mouth

of teeth. The ear: a mouth of hair.
I am frightened of bodies dried

to bone. These once were people,
but I can’t imagine them. These shoes:
not hers. These slacks: not his.

This shirt: not the child’s or
the stranger girl’s. The moon

continually rising, I wish it a death
only the sun could bring in rings of heat:
red, gelatinous, and boiled clean.


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