Review of Shya Scanlon’s Border Run, by Jamie Grefe


Border Run
By Shya Scanlon
New Dead Families, 2012

Jack Lightning and Jo: Angel calls her “Mrs. Lightning” like she never left, isn’t her walking up a desert path to the door for her son who isn’t there, for what should have been healed or the lies she conceals–Jo and her love for Jack unfolds, blossoms of bones and desert. Alex is not in Arizona, nowhere there, not tunneling, except some hospital room awaiting news that there is no such thing as Border Run no more, only ImPass-owned wall impenetrable. But in pages, love seeps: animals, one’s land, family, community and the ones we don’t even know we are a part of–work, words and desert, deceased or sick, the ones arriving in the parking lot or by bus and the child departed, or sacred tradition like the cry of the mountain before us.

Someone lost a child here and the father goes, too. This is the loss of self that comes from the change of self. And love circles, infects the reader in all the right ways. We lose ourselves in coming to confront who we ought to be, but sometimes a chant is more murderous than a bullet, a bark or a growl, a clone of Che Guevara clawing his way up out of the earth where you will help him cross, alive. This is loss: love or an elder call and one day face-to-face with a heat and a howl more profound than any wall stretching miles into the sea or any staged capture just to place your hands on her shoulders once more.

We are the desert and the desert is alive and we are redeemed through courage and love, the struggle to do what we know is right (what we ought to do) for reasons we will never fully understand, to stand up for what we believe under duress of death or threat or doubling back into confusion. Redeemed: a guzzler’s desert drive, or Desmonda dreaming of her burned down hotel, or Jo breathing the old man back to life in the back of the guzzler, leaving lightning streaks on the horizon. Struggle to understand we are Lightning.

The surround is all fires and guns, thieves, and the light concealing, revealing father to son. Wind
chimes of bones. Eternity. A Rattlesnake charm. Time. And this border wall before us is not only a
physical wall, but an internal structure, a wall at once greater, unfathomable, searing, a wall to sever
who we ought to be by illusions of tequila-drip, dust, light, red hair and revolution. And a great man
arrives up through the ground, a breathless specter that is not a man. This man is a spirit, a ghost, a
clone, a hero. And if he arrives in the dust of the jeeps, to the jeers and cheers of the tourists, caught or
praised or worshiped, will he be struck alive in the overwhelming experience of stepping foot on holy
ground? Shall we also name him Lightning?

Jamie Grefe writes from Beijing. His work appears or is forthcoming in elimae, Mud Luscious Online Quarterly, New Dead Families, Gone Lawn, and elsewhere. He shreds maps for a living or mines artifacts of invisibility. Here is a flower: http://shreddedmaps.tumblr.com

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