On This Side of the Line

On This Side of the Line

By Naomi Ortiz

My house
is being encircled by machines of war
The sky above my neighborhood their playground
A threat, not overseas, but a few miles from here
This invisible line drawn through the desert sand

Lines drawn up in defense of a side
We are supposed to pick a side

On this line, they have built a wall
One that gets washed out every time we are blessed with a storm
The rivers which run south to north
Whose waters surge through the washes to flood, breach the wall
Proving unpredictable power cannot be contained

But back here, in my house, in my neighborhood
Back where they pretend the border did not flip less than two generations ago
We learn to be good at pretending

Like my father
he pretends that he did not join his mom in the surge from south to north
picking cotton
his coffee sack to her bag, the length of a full-grown man
Now he works like he is forever proving
his worth
to be here
on this side of the line

I am the child
born so close to the land of my father’s birth
A silent lineage that haunts my blood
I feel the stories which linger inside my body
whispers I cannot quite hear

I carry the rhythmic echoes in my heart and skin
of migration, unhindered by all but sun, moon, water, wind

This knowledge is lost to me now

Instead, I adjust to the constant suspicion –
(do I give in or resist the questions), “Are you a citizen?” “Where you going?” “What brings you here?”

50 miles from the border and I think they wish they could grade from there to here
Scraping away everything which is rooted
Tearing away everything which offers hope to movement

Yet, as the line disrupts life,
so does life continue to ignore the line
butterflies migrate over
lizards burrow underneath

In my home, in my heart
I push back from underground
the one side blood sinks to meet
grafting on layers to a heart split, a family shattered,
Creating new life from underneath

About Naomi Ortiz

Naomi Ortiz is a writer, poet and visual artist who cracks apart common beliefs and spills out beauty. Naomi is a nationally known speaker and trainer on self-care for activists, disability justice, and intersectionality. She is a Disabled, Mestiza (Latina/Indigenous/White) living in the U.S./Mexico borderlands.

Naomi’s upcoming book, Sustaining Spirit: Self Care for Social Justice invites readers to explore the relationships between mind, body, spirit, heart and place to integrate self-care to survive and thrive. Sustaining Spirit: Self Care for Social Justice will be released in 2017.

Connect with Naomi at self-care for social justice. 
This poem in audio form was delivered at the Disability Latinx conference on June 16, 2017. Available here.