At the Northern Border, November 2018

As a baby I could breathe
the sweet milky scent of my mother,
the smoky fire we cooked by,
the wet, gamey smell of the dogs
who licked our faces while we slept.

I know the toasty smell of tortillas,
sweet yucca and plantains,
the spice and salt and corn oil
of the rice and beans
frying in the pan.

But now I can smell the tear gas
sprayed by the border soldiers;
all of us run away, crying, coughing, choking,
carrying babies with their faces tucked against our chests
and pulling the children by the hand.

I think of all the smells,
good and bad,
the ones that mean food and comfort,
the ones that mean pain and fear;
this is a new smell.

Roger Stoll is a Latin America & Caribbean solidarity activist with the Task Force on the Americas, a three-decades-old anti-imperialist human rights organization. He has published articles (San Francisco Examiner, ZNet), book reviews (, Dissident Voice, Jewschool), and poetry (Dissident Voice, New Verse News). He has been arrested numerous times in support of various causes. Read other articles by Roger.