Photo by Jeff Sirkin



You’re a pile of judgment days

crossing the border. You tried to organize the minutes

waiting in line on the bridge but days travel

over days and erase them.

You organize your tears instead.

You keep some in your coat pocket.

Customs finds your

years, shit, tears

and now your tears are tearing

up the costume agent, ay, perdon, Customs!

agents till they’re blind in one eye.

They must have been storing them.

Before Customs lets the Crosser in

they need to paint her portrait.

It’s a slow process as they Niagra-falls

through their post, at the kiosk, revealing their daubs

to themselves, for Customs, like Crossers,

are made from hidden daubs of paint.


The fence’s weaves gaze upon you. Yes, the fence looks at you

just as you look at the fence. When you see something you start to influence its behavior

and the fence has seen you work for years at the border.

The fence has seen you building it, the fence.


My shadow is over there in El Paso but I’m right here. That’s not fair, why is my shadow in El Paso and I’m stuck over here. Why didn’t Customs stop my shadow? Why didn’t Customs check its ID? What’s so special about my shadow? It’s not even me.



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*** ** ***



Through a designated lens a deathfilter is an effect and you film the Crosser through this window,

a slasher film that tracks back to the frame of the desert.

We might hear sounds as the Crossers hear them. Listen;

is that a hand thrusting through the border fence?

Primitiva is under the table and the public knows it. Like a character exploring a sinister house, we see and hear no more than the Crosser

who should walk lightly, the moment is full of cages.

The border can predict the future and predicts that you will hang clothes to dry on the border fence.

You can’t unsee Juarez but wait, yes, now it’s possible. Customs put up a fence and now you can’t

see into Juarez except through small, mesh squares. If you use a light bulb with less wattage,

does it soften your features? It’s not clear, Juarez,

but you can still hear the city. If you use a listening device

to overhear a conversation, is the action legal? The border simulator pats you on the back

and frames the Crosser with a chyron that reads: “The desert coffins cough themselves

up from the ground and now the coffins are traveling

through the desert.” Yes, a caravan of coffins is heading to the border.

The caravan’s motto was: “cross now cry later”. But ever since

customs threw tear gas at us, it’s become “cry now” too.

What they don’t know is that we already extinguished our tears.

We wouldn’t have wasted a drop.

All your friends spend hours pinching their phones

and all my friends are pinching themselves, trying to zoom in on themselves

but no, they can’t zoom in.



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*** ** ***



Did you know, in the border simulator, you keep yourself

in and out? Your eyes now a revolving entrance for Customs.

Customs is trying to open Primitvo’s eyes

but he’s doing everything he can to keep them

shut. Primitivo sold his ojitos

to Customs but now has second

thoughts and doesn’t want to sell.

Customs wants to look

like Primitivo

to stamp other crossers

with familial eyes.

This is the state of the state of your eyes,

and they’re wild

with dunes. Let us climb.

But to climb we’ll need words we understand,

on a map. Customs are words

that describe themselves,

an example of map design.

Their ancestors, whoops, acne scars,

are scatter plots replacing latitude and longitude

with other dimensions like time and dollar sign,

the Crossers represented by dots.

The same Crosser should serve more than one graphical purpose. You think that’s a lot

of information for just one dot? Oh, look, there’s another dot, and when you connect them

you get the face of Primitivo. Please! paint that face in my mural.

These Crossers are not restrictive stories; we know so much about them

and still they try and sneak narratives away from us,

stories we could use to catch more of them.

Treasure mine, trash yours.



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*** ** ***



Customs hope to represent themselves,

or misrepresent me. A veces les importa. You,

fellow Crosser of simulation, are this world’s

greatest commodity. People love to hire you

or keep you out but as long as you’re needed,

right? You are the cities’ prize possession

and their most despised possession. Because you’re so important,

because you’re so useless, you connect the framework

of the simulation so that other Crossers can stay off the map,

off the grid. You’ve loved the grid for so long,

you wouldn’t know where to go without it.


What’s found in simulation is the inverted you believing all the things you used to believe.

When Primitivo built pyramids

he may have been wiser than he is now maybe,

maybe not, but ruins are all he deserves.

How long ‘til this fence is a ruin? Which ruins

are you working on? These headsets from five years ago!

The old models and I’m forced to sell them

to countries where they don’t yet exist,

where this news is news to them.

Better to simulate than to fade away.



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*** ** ***



Crossers are missing something, you can tell. They appear to slant inwards towards themselves

on the bridge. They are pointing at their stomachs but they are not hungry. They try to fill the void

with more simulation. The warmth of enclosed regions is the Crossers’ goal.

Instead, they are shown the dubbed version of Ice Age 2 in the holding cell.

This Crosser is you, Primitivo, and you comb your hair in line at the bridge.

The industry attracted new workers into the zone and they cross for work but their work

is the crossing. A collapsing of the laminated papers and the bureau, you, all condensed into one

moment of passing dotted lines on a map

you comb and comb,

#hoping to pull through%

some sort of identity, some sort of version of your face

that will be acceptable at the apex of the bridge.

From there you see everyone who has already crossed

and you’re jelly. You can’t tell if you are charging or not.

You are plugged into the charger but there is no battery symbol or light to designate a charge.

You just assume you are charging.


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Gabriel Dozal
is from El Paso, TX. He received his MFA in poetry from The University of Arizona. His work appears in Guernica, The Iowa Review, The Brooklyn Rail, The Literary Review, Hunger Mountain, and The Volta.



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