This week we bring you a poem by Susan Sherman. Susan lives in New York City, but is a frequent visitor to New Mexico—and has deep ties to this country, as the above photo attests. We were both a lot younger when it was taken in the mid-eighties, out at Coronado’s Monument, but she was a great poet then and continues to be. “Border Guards” could be read as being about our dramatically contested southern border, so much in the news these days, but it also goes much deeper, addressing other borders as well: those that assault us from the outside, and those that live within.  




There are lines drawn in the sand

that must never be crossed   So say the pundits   

the arbiters of boundaries   definitions   of what should   

or should not be said   or done   There are lines

drawn on maps   around cities boroughs neighborhoods

blocks houses   The people who live in them


There are lines drawn around nations

Lines teeming with people waiting to get in   

or out  There are lines drawn around individuals 

ethnic racial tribal lines   Around genders   he she

you me   A demarcation of countries cultures continents    


There are lines drawn around hemispheres   

North South East West   Around the Earth itself  

There are longitude lines    latitude lines 

The Tropic of Capricorn is a line  The Tropic of Cancer 

The earth as it circles space  As we delineate the seasons   

Spring Winter Summer Fall


A child takes a crayon   weighs it carefully

It is yellow  the color of the sun   or of her dreams

places she sees in the pictures she thumbs through at night

her fingers scrolling color across paper   purple

then blue   an ocean   then fire blazing orange

and subtle green  trees flowers   objects without set form  

Only she knows what they mean 


Lines of memory are like that   vivid weightless 

ghost images without boundary  Cezanne

seeing a forest of trees come into being

in the dawning sun   paints them obsessively

branches leaves undulating out of birthing light 

as they come alive in front of his discerning eyes


All this is not to say we do not need to name things

identify them  ourselves   but where exactly are these

boundaries borders   guarded so carefully

with passports rules and laws? I can’t see them

Can you?  These lines that label us  define us   

separate us   These lines that must never be crossed


Susan Sherman



Poet, playwright, essayist, and founding editor of  IKON magazine, Susan Sherman has had twelve plays produced off-off Broadway, has published seven collections of poetry as well as an adaptation from Spanish of Pepe Carril's, Shango de Ima (Doubleday, 1971) which she brought from Cuba in 1968. Her memoir, America’s Child: A Personal Chronicle of the Radical Sixties (Curbstone/Northwestern University Press) was published to critical acclaim in October, 2007. Her most recent books are The Light that Puts an End to Dreams: New and Selected Poems (Wings Press, 2012) and Nirvana on Ninth Street: Short Fiction with photos by Colleen McKay and an Afterward by Rona L. Holub  (Wings Press, Fall, 2014). Go to Susan's web page for more information about her work, most recent books, and upcoming events.


Views: 156

Comment by larry goodell on August 17, 2014 at 8:10am

Nice, round presentation of a poet and a poem revealing a troubling concept of humans and other animals on Earth . . . thank you Susan, thank you Margaret . . . 

Comment by BARBARA BYERS on August 17, 2014 at 11:03am
Yeah, LINES, boundaries. Such a tangle. I love the two photos of you, Susan.
I really like the poem. Such an all of the time, on all levels concern.
Comment by cc on August 17, 2014 at 11:29am

What an important message in this poem ... to remember that much of human existence is circumvented by excessive order, by drawing lines ... and that, in our essence as humans shown as children or imaginative adults, the mark-making is more natural and describes our connections rather than our separations. Yes, thank you to all who do this and come here!

Comment by Dee Cohen on August 17, 2014 at 1:26pm

Very thoughtful poem. How easily we internalize those lines. Thanks for the poetic reminder.


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