Origin Stories – Mary Makofske

Origin Stories
    by Mary Makofske

    Drawn in ink or blood,
    they unspool from history
    to split mountains and valleys,
    meander in rivers that twist 
    and turn, dragging their banks 
    to new configurations, adding to,
    subtracting from, this dominion
    or that. Invisible, except
    when a fence or wall defines
    them, ramparts that open
    only through drawbridge or gate
    guarded by sirens and guns.
    Those you can step across
    are silent. The same weeds grow
    on either side. Perhaps a sign
    announces some new territory,
    but the soil does not change
    its allegiance: clay or silt,
    loam or dust. The name
    of the tree that straddles
    a border may change from one
    language to another, but its roots
    are anchored in the same earth
    and draw up water that travels
    without passport or visa.
    Still, coastal nations cast their nets
    three miles into the ocean’s 
    tides and storms, and even the sky
    is bound with invisible borders 
    dividing yours from mine.

Origin Stories – Borders

I wrote “Borders” because I was keenly aware of the controversies surrounding immigration at our southern border. For many years I had been horrified at the harrowing stories of immigrants trying to cross the desert and navigate the challenges once they arrived in our country. I began mulling over what borders represent, how they shift over time, how they can be invisible, or seem completely arbitrary. I thought of William Stafford’s poem “At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border,” “where the battle did not happen, / where the unknown soldier did not die.” Images and metaphors began to arise around the idea of borders. Though I did some revisions, much of this poem arrived as a gift. I think of the poem as a kind of meditation on the way these lines divide us, and a grieving over those divisions. And of course, Frost spoke up, too: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

“Borders” was originally published in Bryant Literary Review.

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Available now!

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

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Origin Stories