El Norte

Justine Li

2006 First Prize

Here, the skyline tilts,
swerves into view
then disappears between the hills
behind the walls
darkened with hieroglyphics scrawled by
young boys who mark the borders
of their public territories: This is mine.
And this is how the world chooses to divide itself,
drawing lines across maps,
assigning us to designated areas
                        to take the blame
                        to anywhere else but here.

We are often photographed,
but never captured, and we
go to where one suffering
disguises itself as another; but
our palms are like maps,
decorated with lines that tell
stories and show
us where to run
to escape
homes that don’t exist,
and people asking us
                      telling us
                                    where we belong.

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