The dream bird father sitting on my shoulder
is singing in my ear: Now that you’re older
than I was when I left the rocky road,
it is your turn to shoulder the load,
answer questions students need to ask.
You are an elder now. You wear the mask
of wisdom. So you tell them
Tell them what?
The song breaks off. In somebody’s back seat,
a baby. Whose? More babies on the border.
Terror, desperation, rage. Disorder
of crowded house, tap leaking, family,
students leaning in to question me:
Where should we go now? Tell us what to do.
The road’s uphill, and that is all I know,
borrowing, burrowing, stirring the dark stew,
blended broth of night visions and day,
instructions garbled, watchmen standing tall
and menacing at gates along a wall.
Gaps in the rampart: raw red border zone.
Children wake and cry along the line.
The students’ questions pound relentlessly.
Dream father, bird of omen, oh tell me—
the lost, the hungry, the abandoned—who
will take care of them? The grownups knew
the answers to these questions. And now
we are grown up, whose job is it to know?
The reassuring elders, where are they?
The dream bird looks at me and hops away.
Always uphill the steep road poetry
Scattered syllables still in my ear
when I sit up and the red world is here.