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Tuesday, July 09, 2019


by Alejandro Escudé

A Wednesday, early July, and the line is over an hour long
for the ride at the kitschy, Hollywood theme park
based on Bart, the lovable, ironic, cigarette-shaped prig
whose story lines challenge the very economy that swindled
the crowd to pay hundreds of dollars to sit in a shaky vehicle
while images of a roller coaster create a roller coaster.
On a wall, a sign reads: max capacity 1023, and right behind me
a Mexican family speaks Spanish while they’re seven-year-old
stares up at me with big, luminous, and questioning eyes.
He could be one of those confined to cages at the border, his mother too,
and his aged father with the cracked, bemused smile. Hundreds
are gathered here. It could be the detention center itself; the heat,
standing-room only, the fussed-with chains meant to hold us in place.
There’s a strained happiness, but as the line meanders that happiness
fades into boredom and even to the hint of dicey mob anxiety;
we wind around one room then wind in another. I comprehend
the Mexican family, yet the lilting accent begins to grind in my ears.
I don’t like what they sound like. I don’t want them behind me,
and the father has thrice bumped into my backpack in which I carry
a water bottle and my daughter’s cap, a gaudy thing displaying
a bling-ed-out American flag. It’s a mass of snaking families, many
are foreigners actually, come to see and taste and touch
the America America sells abroad. But it’s now late in the day,
and I’ve grown tired of the French, with their self-assured le français,
the Chinese groups who jolt into you moving to and fro in the line,
the out-of-state whites, fathers with blurry, meaningless tattoos,
the stone-faced, beefy mothers with sunburned, thick, freckled arms
and their giant sons, who are always trying too hard to be funny,
the triads of pretty teenaged girls, maybe local, wearing
denim shorts so small they barely veil their immaculate vaginas,
firm buttocks bulging out from below the frayed threads.
I think back to the mothers, fathers, and kids in detention centers,
the lawyers and senators gawking at them, inhaling the human stench
of days on end without proper hygiene care: piss, shit, and sweat.
Here, in the line, it smells of sweat too, sweat and ratty impatience.
Homer helps himself to a frothy beer mug, Bart whips out a snarky comeback,
and Marge floats into the scene, deeply flawed yet motherly,
a cartoon version of Mother Mary—the three of them holy in their hilarity.
Krusty the Clown—the greedy villain, the threat that threatens us all.
We board a claustrophobic vehicle, lower the snug safety bar,
and below appears a field of fluorescent, Springfield palette hellscapes
we fall breathlessly toward then rise (we believe) abruptly from.

Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.