A golden eagle floats the cosmos. Below her, spaghetti strands cut through the border landscape – trails packed into the dirt by worn soles and bleeding feet. A buzzing whine comes to her from the north. She shifts her head and bends her elbows to dip below the strange bird. She continues her hunt. The drone stays on its pre-programmed path; surveilling life below.
Human feces– biological cairns– expose a migratory path through prickly pear pads and saguaro guardians. Soiled toilet paper waves from lichen patched mesquite branches. Teddy bears vomit plastic beads and white innards of stuffing. The black bears leave inside-out-turned javelina carcasses.
Photos from a funeral fade in the sun next to a camera that flashes at night capturing the procession of animals that roar, bellow, screech, and huff to their burial grounds in this condemned canyon. Nail polish bright in its “Come hither” shade of red paints the sand beads upon which it leaks a fresh taint of blood for posterity.
Pumas copulate among discarded condoms and overturned tequila bottles laced with meth. An acacia tree bears witness. Its thorns have been purposefully decorated with tokens of violence and lessons on power: black lace brassieres, athletic bras, plain cotton underwear, a wonder woman top.
In the next drainage useless suit jackets, high heels, frilly dresses, and striped ties lie heaped in a mound like coyote carcasses found on the neighboring ranch.
There, the cowboy hat collective gathers. They ponder their inherited landscape molded from dry, sun-spotted hands. They marvel at their choice. Their lands were open and continuous. Water used to flow freely carrying nutrients and seedlings. Sediment settled to keep the banks of the arroyos in shape. Their cows mixed with deer, bobcat, pronghorn, rattlers, and grey foxes.
The bovine were left to roam aerating and fertilizing the land as they moved. But now they are contained, just like their human counterparts. Stopped by metal poles and sheet walls strung together like a jail cell. The cowboy hats are wondering why they chose to vote for their imprisonment.
A herd of mule deer make their way to a lone water hole. They are startled by the speedy growls of Border Patrol’s ATVs. The frightened herd scatters over tire ruts to an oak -studded ridge losing safety in their numbers.
A male cardinal chirps his own alarm as he stares down through the denuded hackberry tree into eyeballs. A Border Patrol agent leans over the corpse, “Haven’t I see you before?” he whispers to the wide acorn eyes staring at his killer, the sun. “I’ve seen you a thousand times, “ the agent continues. He kneels down in his starched green pants and closes the boy’s eyes. The flesh slides down easily. The agent swears under his breath, “Fuck, I almost had you.”
Light flickers. Guadalupe’s eyes look down from her shrine to the shadow passing beneath her plastic roses. He is clothed in the map of the universe, revered to be a killer with one leap, the jaguar. His eyes reflect the bright tapestry underneath his paws of cloth and plastics. Spanish language romance novels lie open to the wind’s favorite passage. There are turned back sardine cans which he sniffs. Crumbled cookie remains mix with caffeine tablets. Brackish water leaks from plastic milk jugs. Metallic echoes follow the cat from the south. The beeping of bulldozers, the clang of metal panels being put into place, the wall nearing its completion.
The jaguar walks on following the scents of the ones who lit the Saint’s candles for hope and to stall their fear. He stops at a tree, his tree. He sniffs the base. The scent forces him to lean in. To lift his lips over his pink marbled gums and open his mouth, exposing yellow canines so the whole can be digested, so the image forms in his mind. He turns his black rosetted back to the shaggy bark of the tree. He lifts his tail and sprays his response. He walks on.
I’itoi takes his clay and begins to fashion a new landscape. Instead of people like he did millennia ago he forms rocks, boulders, broken tree limbs, and juniper-scented bundles. He lets his pieces dry. Then the desert god drinks his ceremonial wine and summons the rain.
Water falls; fresh and earth-scented before turning the land muddy and angry. Next, he throws in his creations. The boulders are thrown down from his granite throne scouring the earth. He heaves logs of oak, alligator juniper, and mesquite into the roiled stream. The resinous scent of fresh leaves releases. The eagle bears witness.
From her twisted oak perch high in the rocks of the dragon spine she watches the destruction unleashed by the god. Ravens caw above as foxes, coyotes, and cows bob in the white froth next to tattered backpacks, skeletal remains, and ancient mortar and pestles unearthed from the cleanse. Fence posts and barbed wire wrap around horses, bobcats, and pick-up trucks. Surveillance towers and sections of the border wall bounce next to ancestral stones of family foundations.
The eagle watches her world drown until the last wave of monsoonal moisture becomes a trickle and all that is left are the seedlings for the next generation: squash, corn, and bean.
Janay Brun lives in Tucson, Arizona, and is the author of Cloak & Jaguar: Following a Cat from Desert to Courtroom.