“Gusanoz” by Jenna Le

Jenna Le


a sonnet crown

We leave for good. I-89
absorbs my little Honda Civic
into its southbound lane. Quick
it’s not: most times, we’re plovers flying
when we take this road (in north
New Hampshire, traffic is a rarity),
but luggage wedged into the narrow
gap between the third and fourth
snow tires in the trunk weighs down
the car so that we’re trudging syrup,
and making turns is actual work.
My blood flows light, however, stirred
by hope: I’m moving to New York.
It’ll all work out when we reach town.

It’ll all work out when we reach town:
a chorus of champagne flutes’ clinks
awaits. No more will we be jinxed
by clock hands spinning, spinning round.
Fresh start. Sure, there are things I’ll miss
about New England, like that weekend
at Stowe, the bath steam, snowmelt leaking
from ski boots in the corner. Bliss.
Still, it’s pleasant to return
where spicy restaurants are plenty:
the only spot where you could sate
a taco lust near my old place
was Gusanoz, their always friendly
staff warning, “Careful—you’ll get burned!”

Their staff warned, “Careful—you’ll get burned!”
How long ago was that? An age?
This morning, an ex-colleague’s rage
on Twitter caught my eye: his stern
avatar scowled above a pic
he’d scanned in from the Valley News
where, under halcyon heaven’s blues,
a line of orange cones inflicts
a gash upon the highway. “Border
Patrol checkpoint on Interstate
89 snarls traffic, stirs strife,”
the headline reads. The piece relates
Gusanoz’s busboy’s been deported.
His boss: “Great kid … They’ve ruined his life.”

His boss: “Great kid … They’ve ruined his life.”
Gulping the article, I burn,
for all that I’d been warned. I learn
eleven folks were seized by ICE.
An agent, who wouldn’t show his badge,
threatened the neighbors who, concerned,
approached the scene, a clash that spurred
one woman’s fretting, “Shall six large
men with dogs stop me with no warrant?”
Border Patrol? We’re near no coast,
this inland town with tourist charms.
Last fall, my sister and I threaded
through a corn maze owned by a redhead
who was most kind, the perfect host.

The farmers here are kind, good hosts.
So what has happened to this place
I lived until last week, this space
amid the mountains where my most
fulfilling job was teaching all
who came from all around the earth
to learn? Will these kids now get hurt?
I shot a text out to my pal
who lives up north still. She replied
to say she has begun to carry
her green card in her wallet, wary.
And when she used her car to ferry
our mutual friend to class, he smiled
but gripped his passport the whole ride.

He gripped his passport the whole ride—
and here I’m talking big brave guys,
ceiling-tall, enormous smiles,
the type that’s eager to provide
pointers to more junior learners.
The news has got them worried. All
of us are worried. I, now walled
in the Big Apple, am a furnace
of worry. That stern prof on Twitter
scowls, pounds on “Block” and on “Ignore.”
This rural town, to be quite clear,
is miles and miles from the perimeter.
There’s just one sandwich counter here:
Cambodian. Nice town, like yours;

and combed by Border Patrol, like yours
has two-thirds odds of being, Reader.
You thought the edge was far yet teeter.
Lay Yi, her birthplace mined by wars,
migrated in 2004
and now she’s feeding hungry locals
at this sandwich joint, a focal
point in the neighborhood, a core.
She greets me by my name each time.
When moving out, I went to say
goodbye, but she was out that day.
Perhaps it’s fitting: farewells could
give the false sense one leaves for good
when one drives down I-89.

from Poets Respond
September 15, 2019


Jenna Le: “I didn’t think I’d ever write a sonnet crown, but a story in my inland small-town local paper about the unexpected appearance of a Border Patrol checkpoint on our local highway that got posted on Twitter on Monday appears to have yanked a crown out from inside me. The crown form allowed to me to say all manner of things I didn’t realize I needed to say, about the bittersweetness of moving, spicy tacos, my all-time favorite Cambodian sandwich shop, corn mazes, Twitter, and working as a teacher.” (web)

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