[35]Crossings, Elizabeth Salper


For Alvaro

“…If you do not tremble when you cross a border it is not the border you have crossed.”
-Athena Farrokhzad


Divorce, returned me to my tackle box of found metal parts: no single piece belonging to another. I was there in March when you said nothing at a dinner party. Your eyes were shining and moving. We sat across from one another, you sneaking looks at my legs as we sipped limoncellos.

A week later, you asked me out for fish tacos, your keyboard omitting the letters g & h. This altered alphabet disturbed me and made me laugh. I could not pronounce your first name, but in April the Sonoran desert screams yes.


There are no doors in your house, yet, the dead knock every Wednesday.

In remote areas of the desert we plant three crosses. You place an empty vial of perfume in the palm of my hand and tell me things get left behind. I see strewn backpacks, toiletries, a single green toothbrush, and carpet remnants used to conceal shoe tracks from the Border Patrol. Your eyes, accustomed to locating what is left behind, spot a Mexican pre-paid phone card.

You know why they cross.


You showed up at school with no shoes, slept on dirt floors, and received one new shirt a year from your abuela, Ana Tulia. You left Colombia at eighteen – “home” still elusive at sixty-nine. A hundred pairs of brilliant socks later, your favorite Mae West quote is “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”

After your second divorce, you missed the fruit trees in your yard. You said, “Crows snatch the sweetest cherries first.”


As I took my morning walk around the zoo, I could feel the elephants shifting their weight, beginning their day.

You give home a ground.


When you said age would matter more to me later, I said no so loudly that now, I can only remember my tongue returning to my teeth, like rest, and the boundary of quiet that lay between us.

What is needed to cross:

Eyes / x-ray /
Body / compass /




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