The journey south is always easier. A northern haul is cruel. See those trees leafing plastic shopping bags; that is how they see us. The soft gifted thin tents and sleeping bags. If lucky, a truck will stop, open a freezer gate, conduct us elsewhere, the fence will already be cut, the police baton will wave and not shatter as jackhammers may brick. The sea will be calm. A volunteer nurse will stitch us up, with a pat on the backside, usher us back onto the track which splits, always divergent, each step a choice with zero information. Hope is water. Fear our food. At night the rats nibble while the vigilantes come to bellow hymns, crush the little we have, shove phone batteries down our throats—recite verse and remember the cuddle before our roofs caved into dust.
The sky here deep grey. How do they/how will we live with no sun? The tracks are broken. After the last derailment/ deportation/ interview/ crossing/ robbery/ rape/ beating—some think they can stop us. We are water. We are bird. Hope. Water. Bird. Have you ever seen a video of a million blackbirds falling from the sky dead mid-flight—was it sound, chemical, deep fake, or warning shot? This thin tent, better than rubble, we shit on the tracks not from protest, deep down we are grateful, but there is nowhere else for relief. We pity the forests and fields and rivers we must cross as you pity us. No one has asked for any of this, especially this earth. If this is what is offered, we must bow respectfully. When you walk four thousand kilometres, not only does everything look different, but your mind and legs get so bloody strong.
This morning, joggers traversed camp. They are always the ones to find the corpses. Call authorities. Nod sincere understanding. More people, less earth, nothing new, crops, irrigation, national rhetoric, at some points we all have everything and nothing. This is not about taking or giving but crossing the us and them track.
DM O’Connor has an MFA from University College Dublin & the University of New Mexico. He is a contributing reviewer for Rhino Poetry and fiction editor at Bending Genres. His work has appeared in Splonk, A New Ulster, Fractured Lit, Cormorant, Crannog, Opossum, CRAFT, The New Quarterly, The Irish Times, The Guardian, and others. He is the recipient of the 2021 Cuirt International Award for Fiction, Tom Gallon Short Story Award, and is the current writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House. He is grateful for the support of the Arts Council of Ireland and Words Ireland. Tweet: @dmoconnorwrites