Volume 31, Number 1

On Guard

Can we ever be clever enough, even we who are the best of them all? We know how the wind blows. It blows from the outside. There can never be enough protection from impurities, from the eager dangers that skulk everywhere, working day and night to get at you, dangers like gangs of children, children of migrants just arrived from the South who always expect good folk—folks like us!—to take care of them, dangers like nervous small dogs that could bite, like the sneaky farmers, former salt of the earth, who feed their livestock grain and grass sprayed with poisons. They tell you it’s organic, but you cannot be too careful.

Gangs of children will snatch at the thin gold chain that entwines with your hollow golden heart. They’ll snatch at your old iPhone in your knockoff purse. If you have it they want it and they will take it. You still seem too calm. You must be harder, angrier, more alarmed. Your eyes must draw the fear from your legs and push it back into their eyes, compel them to give way before you.

There is no enduring harbor from the malice of the world. Okay, maybe for an hour or a day, but not for good, never for long. Not even we are clever enough for that.

—Karen Greenbaum-Maya