The Fifth Dream: Bullets and Deserts and Borders, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment



A man is walking toward me.
He is alone.
He has been walking through the desert.
He has been walking for days.
He has been walking for years.
His lips are dry
and cracking
like a piece of spent soil.
I can see his open wounds.
His eyes are dark
as a Tanzanian night.

He discovers I have been watching
though he has long ceased to care
what others see. I ask him
his name, ask him what
has brought him here, ask
him to name
his angers and his loves.
He opens his mouth
to speak—
but just as his words hit
the air, a bullet
pierces his heart.

I do not know
the country
of this man’s birth. I only know
that he is from
the desert. He has the worn
look of despair
that only rainless days can give.
That is all I know.
He might have been born
in Jerusalem. He might have been
born in Egypt. He might
have been the direct descendant
of a pharaoh. His name
might have been Ptolemy.
His name might have been
Moses. Or Jesus.
Or Muhammad.
He might have been a prophet.
He might have been a common thief.
He might have been a terrorist
or he might have been just
another man destined
to be worn down
by the ceaseless, callous storms.
He might have come
from a country called Afghanistan.
He might have been from Mexico.

He might have been
looking for a well.
His dreams were made of water.
His lips touching
that is what he was dreaming.

I can still hear the sound of the bullet.


The man reappears.
It does not matter
that I do not want him
in my dreams. He is
searching through the rubble
of what was once his house.
There are no tears on his
face. His lips still yearn
for water.


I wake. I begin to believe
that the man has escaped
from Auschwitz. Perhaps he sinned
against the Nazis or because
he was a collaborator or because
he was Jewish
or because he loved another man.
He has come
to the desert looking
for a place he can call home.
I fall asleep trying
to give the man a name.


The man is now
walking toward a city
that is no longer there.


I am the man.
I see clearly. I am
awake now.
It is me. It has taken me
a long time to know this.
I am a Palestinian.
I am an Israeli.
I am a Mexican.
I am an American.
I am a busboy in a tall building
that is about to collapse.
I am attending a Seder and I am
tasting my last bitter
herb. I am a boy who has learned
all his prayers. I am bowing
toward Mecca in a house
whose roof will soon collapse
on my small frame.
I am a servant. I shine shoes
and wash the feet
of the rich. I am an illegal.
I am a Mexican who hates all Americans.
I am an American who hates all Mexicans.
I am a Palestinian who hates all Israelis.
I am an Israeli who hates all Palestinians.
I am a Palestinian Jew who hates himself.

I am dying of all this knowledge.
I am dying of thirst.
I am a river that will never know water again.
I am becoming dust.


I am walking toward my home.
Mexico City? Washington?
Mecca? Jerusalem?
I don’t know. I don’t know.


I am walking in the desert.

I see that I am reaching a border.

A bullet is piercing my heart.


Travel Series #1 – Heathrow

February 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Travel Series #1 - Heathrow

It’s a cold, overcast day in Bucharest, but what better time to start a project than late winter? By the time March rolls in, the hard work is done; all that spring energy can fuel creativity and play instead – and that’s what writing and travel are all about.

I started thinking about summer travel plans in March 2013. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d spend four months later that year wandering around Europe as a tour leader. Both times I went to England I took the ferry from Calais, but I listened to this Heathrow playlist on the deck (and at the airport in Paris), so it felt appropriate to make it the first post on Built to Roam. London is my favourite city, and I’ve been told that this mix plays like a love letter.

Travel Series will be an ongoing feature on BTR.


01. The Lido – Adrian Johnston
02. The Victorians Are Here – The Secret Love Parade
03. St. James Infirmary – Allen Toussaint
04. Border Crosser – Trails and Ways
05. This Charming Man – The Smiths
06. I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses
07. Pumpkin Soup – Kate Nash
08. Wandering Star – Portishead
09. Ruby, My Dear – Thelonious Monk
10. Size Too Small – Sufjan Stevens
11. Sun – Two Door Cinema Club
12. 110% – Jessie Ware

Click on the cover to stream the mix on 8tracks.

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