Parting Words: “in the custom of passing”

Illustration by Simi Kang

in the custom of passing
in memory of Kevin Fret, and the children in custody of U.S. border patrol

you call for delivery, only to think of many small pairs of bare braceleted
arms. as if Elián taught you how to look in the 90’s. tiny. mistaken. lost.
like the bracketed language of innocent detention. hanging up, you take
out a container of vegetables, pre-washed, and decide to cook.

understand, we became attached at some point. manipulated. entertained.
our old bodies inebriated on a steel axis; drunk on our potential
for change—one salt rim away. a right way to live. a job, not a passion.
a project like the old neighborhood line of mass detention. be good

enough for music. good enough for a dance or two. but eating alone.
now, your steady hand, a resilient heaven… chop. chop. chop.
you can’t remember their names. a bold border that did nothing but
blind, a bronze highlight that exorcised children, an orange frame cheated
to blur the smudges of small hand on small hand. this is the frame
of war: a dead yellow uniform badge in bright rotation, against a dirty
but well-cut second-hand suit. law and order.

a backseat beat that held you up against a wall.
this dead-pan joke that will never land.

let me tell you what happens when we can’t get home.
when the rainbow is not enough. when we are downtown
riding in the early morning hours. on two wheels in a rotunda.
a stadium has open beds for us, a morbid river of loose ends
and latin captions to explain: not everyday, not here…

you ask for the right number to call. you ask, eight times or eight years old?
you say, and what about Laquan?

you imagine what the steel might be like. would it forever interrogate
your wrists, even after the metal had disbanded. one slim finger
hovers over the ridge of the knife. the blood is familiar as an evacuation
policy, these days. always another raid or bomb threat. you complain of cold
feet, you confuse Kevin with el niño. you wave your hand in front of the screen.

By Lisa Marie Brimmer

Lisa Marie Brimmer is the co-editor of Queer Voices of Minnesota: Poetry, Prose, and Pride, forthcoming this spring from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.