At the Wall

Forty feet of cement
and no way to escape
to the other side. Forty
feet of gold paint
peeled off. Grey guts
bleached white as bone.
All the stolen jobs are
free now. In the fields,
no one bends their backs.
Strawberries form a
red-black perfume of rot.
Almonds shrivel in their
shells. Dishes sit unwashed
in the restaurants. No
one lifts house frames.
Wood in the lumber yards
is eaten by termites. Sawdust
flies up from their wings.
All the construction invoices
from my government
marked “Return to Sender”
and left undelivered on the
other side, where I cannot
see, decomposing to pulp
in the alternation of sun and
rain. On either side, an equal
share of sun. An equal share
of rain. Men and women
stalk the wall with letters
they cannot send, touch
the wall’s surface as they
would a beloved face, drop
envelopes with scrawled
names and addresses on the
ground as if the earth could
absorb words washed off by
rainfall and sneak them over
the border. The people step
on other letters as they walk. It
can’t be helped. Forty feet overhead,
a monarch butterfly smells the sap
of an oyamel fir tree and flies toward
its hibernation, its shadow crossing my face.

Gail Giewont

Gail Giewont’s first chapbook, Vulture, is available from Finishing Line Press. She teaches in the literary arts program at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology in Petersburg, VA.