Friday, January 30, 2009

This blague

This blague is a French/English joke.

Monday, January 19, 2009

barbed wire borders

Lyn and I are teaching a course on borderlands, using the US/Mexico borderlands as our primary example. Last week we read Gloria Anzaldua's book "Borderlands/La Frontera," and came across this poem (just a part reproduced here):

I press my hand to the steel curtain--

chainlink fence crowned with rolled barbed wire--

rippling from the sea where Tijuana touches San Diego 

unrolling over mountains 

and plains 

and deserts, 

this "Tortilla Curtain" turning into el rio Grande 

flowing down to the flatlands 

of the Magic Valley of South Texas 

its mouth emptying into the Gulf. 

1,950 mile-long open wound 

dividing a pueblo, a culture, 

running down the length of my body, 

staking fence rods in my flesh, 

splits me splits me 

me raja me raja 

This is my home 

this thin edge of 


We're all split, separated, divided, defined, limited, ordered by the boundaries we live on, by the borders that run, barbed and dangerous, through our psyches and our physical circumstances.

Anzaldua gets here at something Lyn and I are trying to think through for a paper we'll deliver at the next meeting of the Western Historical Society. A couple of paragraphs from our proposal:

Amy Irvine, in her memoire Trespass (North Point Press, 2008), tells of coming on a shocking scene in southern Utah: “Strung across the fence is a dead coyote. Blood drips from a fresh wound, blooms like a red Oriental poppy in the snow. . . . We climb over the fence and then lift the coyote off the barbed wire.”

Near the end of her 1998 story “Brokeback Mountain,” Annie Proulx writes: “In the end the stud duck refused to let Jack’s ashes go. ‘Tell you what, we got a family plot and he’s goin in it. . . .’ Bumping down the washboard road Ennis passed the country cemetery fenced with sagging sheep wire, a tiny fenced square on the welling prairie. . . .”

And finally, also in 1998, Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a rail fence, and left to die outside Laramie. Laramie residents denied that their town is a homophobic place. We live and let live here, they kept saying, a western mantra that rings true until you bring homosexuals into the equation.

Barbed wire is a sometimes vicious alternative to the open range Proulx and Irvine offer in contrast. Our paper will explore the living and letting live, the fencing in and the fencing out, the practice of stringing up trophies as threats, and the depictions of such practices that can either reinforce them or unmask them. 

[photo of a pronghorn leg caught in barbed wire by Ben Abbott]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wild breakfast

 Saturday morning. We're sitting in bed drinking coffee, enjoying the first sunlight on Provo Peak. Something floats down outside the window. Then a feather rocks gently down the same path. A puff of down follows. More feathers, singly and in bursts.

A fat and happy kestrel.