You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Follow Salt River through funnel of time,
though she stings as she snakes through native sand,
as she did when she flowed from Edith’s eye
through her lot in another oasis, southwest of dead
sea. Feel riverskin shed. Undulate, merge into border-
flow, a kind of synovial joint between nations.*
In 1827, mi antepasado, Julian Pope, shadowed serpent
Gila, sliding from Taos to San Diego to escape
La Migra. How dare this gringo from Quinteque
flaunt Spanish law! Swim in the House of Mercy, Beth Seda,
the rabbi said. Stand. Even on Shabbat.
Watch angels trouble the waters
of conscience. Don’t look back;
step into this mikveh of names
of daughters and sons of your great-great grandparents,
as if listening to moan of mesquite under weight of axe,
their exodus from somewhere other
to the open tent of desert sun.
Los Nuevo mexicanos y extranjeros were fertile and prolific.
They multiplied and increased very greatly; the land was so filled,
most of their descendants forgot the poor
cousins, working on cotton farms in Appalachia
or Sonoran fields of wheat. To cure illness
in a family, wash each other’s hands or feet.
Sprinkle the water over your garden.
* From 1848 to 1853, the Gila River was part of the border between the United States and Mexico.