Essay: Stacia M. Fleegal’s “How to really watch the borders”

When she won most of the votes but still lost the election, some of the students at the college where I work were devastated and some were not. I gave up hiding my mascara smudges by nine thirty in the morning because the first defiance of misogyny is I’m not here to look good for you and I wanted to look like I’d been punched in the face. The first student to stop by my office was a Mexican-American sophomore. He sniffed in the hall, walking back and forth in front of my door until I called to him, come in, and he did. He sat and didn’t speak. I didn’t speak. It was softly raining, a wind kicking up to take all the leaves that hadn’t yet fallen. Finally he said, I have to call my grandmother, my cousins are … I’m afraid for them. He jumped up and fished out his phone, called her on the spot. Estara bien. A woman came then, openly crying. The three of us sat there, ignoring the news, tissues piling like the only snow the warming world might see this November. Finally I made us tea because I felt like their mother and sometimes coldness seeps in from further in. A Muslim friend messaged me, are you safe? and shit it made me feel so white and safe and loved and full of rage. The sophomore had to leave; the woman stayed. She sat with me all morning, peeling an orange she didn’t eat. We watched the concession speech online and sobbed. To comfort the young was a new role for me, and it felt like stomping the borders of a communal village with a German shepherd and a hand cannon, daring anyone to approach the sleeping innocents. In truth, it was only sitting, it was only listening, only steeping tea, only empathy. It was the day the leaves settled to become the first layer of rot over not-yet-frozen ground. The day the rain defied walls.

***

Stacia M. Fleegal is the author of two full-length and three chapbook poetry collections, most recently antidote (Winged City Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Barn Owl Review, Fourth River, UCity Review, decomP‘s Best of 10 Years anthology, Crab Creek Review, Knockout, Best of the Net 2011, and more. Her nonfiction has appeared at Quaint Magazine, Luna Luna Magazine, and Delirious Hem, and she is a regular contributor at Open Thought Vortex. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she co-founded and ran Blood Lotus for ten years, teaches online writing courses for the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing, works for the Peace & Conflict Studies program at a small, private liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania, serves on the board of her local domestic violence survivor organization, solo-mothers a four-year-old superkid, climbs mountains, and blogs at anotherwritingmom.wordpress.com.

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