By Jim Provencher
A chorus of angels
soars through the dusty streets
of a Mexicali morning.
It could be anywhere
along the Line—cartel-torn,
half-deserted, furtive, uneasy.
Still, children are singing—
It’s Christmastime after all,
and I follow the sound
into a white-washed adobe chapel
where small voices fill incensed air,
melting hard hearts, mi corazon duro
Its back pressed up against the Line,
Mexicali sprawls forever south, drifting
into shimmering Baja Badlands.
The children begin distributing their
small presents and a wide-eyed child
offers hers to me—Oh, I can’t…
I’m not…the watchful teacher
gently tugging my arm—take it,
Por favor, Senor, you must.
Opening my hands, answering
deep questioning eyes—
The Ite, Missa Est sends us
filing out into a shabby, ruined world,
the fallen disarray where cherubim figures
beam down from every rooftop
onto unpaved bordertown streets.
Back on the other side
in my Calexico Motel room
barricaded with iron-barred windows,
my safe prison cell, I unwrap
the child’s gift: homemade sweets,
a silver cross, bundled into a drinking cup
swaddled with a soft golden scarf.
The handwritten note—
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Ano Nuevo
Tu compadre, Mona
Sucking a sweet, carrying a cross,
I venture out into early desert dark
for Christmas lights, the scarf
wound warmly round my neck.
Do you believe in angels?
Do you believe in children, the pure flight
of their voices? I believe in everything.