Crossing the Hyphen

by Madari Pendas


I crossed the hyphen the first time, 

Still a child, still believing

All lands were connected,

That bridges were only

Ornamental vertebrae,

Spines of girders and steel.

Each step followed by a pause.

I contended with the heaviness of water,

At any moment, I expected a plank

To splinter, crack, give; its belly rotted out. 

Returning with new myths & fears 

And an accent neither side affects,

Both grow suspicious of me,

Distrustful of bridge dwellers,

Fealty unknown.

Sometimes I come as a historian,

Other times as an observer, 

Peacekeeper, defender, defector. 

The hyphen a bridge,

That sways and swings,

Sometimes a hop & a skip away,

Other times a week's passage,

A pilgrimage on the nubs of my knees.

I sojourn on the right side, 

I forget the bridge,

That there ever was one,

That I was ever from someplace else.

But the habit of marching,

The memory of migration comes,

And soon I am crossing

The hyphen again,

The skin on my Achilles heel

Chafing, the pink, ripe dermis

Hardening before it can heal.

I describe the other side

To my parents & abuelos,

Who cannot cross the hyphen,

They are too wet, too marked,

But I am another bridge, 

Spanning over an untrammeled valley

Of flesh latticework,

Waiting to ferry them over,

Their feet trodding on

The small of my back. 

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