This is West – Light of the World


Look up, dear wanderer, dear withered man scorched brown by ten thousand rising suns. Look up over the wall of your mortality to the morning star that has finally stolen your life.

Your ancestors worshiped the light of the world, wondered at the renewed blessings of illumination that wiped away the shadows from the face of the earth, much like your mother used to wipe the tears from your eyes when you woke up in the dead of night, alone and afraid. Now the dried leather of your skin would soak up a hundred tears before they so much as reached your chin. It is was not the darkness you should have been afraid of wanderer, but the light.

No one faults you for what you have attempted, least of all me, a lowly jackrabbit. I wander the desert, a child of the sun much like yourself, except my provision is in grasses and cacti fruit, whereas yours depends on borders and nationality. I do not blame you for wanting a better life for your future children who have been stolen from you by the sun. The wall you sought to cross is still a long way off. It was not the wall that killed you, but you would not have risked your life if the world you lived in needed no walls. The walls of the world, the divisions between those with and without, drove you into the waiting arms of our sun, the giver of life, the bright and shining star, the life force of all living things on earth. And for you, the thief of the lifeblood of all living breathing creatures: water.

The sun, your nemesis, the veiled giant in the sky that beat upon your shoulders until you could no longer stand and boiled away the moisture from your brow. The sun is nothing but mitigated violence, its fury held at bay by the thin sliver of sky above, a broiling monstrosity that has raged for eons before either of us walked the earth, and that will continue to rage and rage and rage until it boils the oceans and disintegrates this paltry rock in space your kind – mankind – fights over so fervently. Your patched up khakis will have also disintegrated by then, as will have your hopelessly smudged blue button-up shirt, and those dark dazzling eyes you used to look up at the sky with at night. Dark hair that used to bend in the wind hardly more than yucca leaves, fine-lined lips that rarely bothered to hide a ivory-white smile, and a mouth shaped around gentle words: all gone. Your mouth is filled with sand. Your teeth with grit. Your hair with dust.

So close to the border you’ve gotten, wanderer. So ill prepared you were. Left to fight against nature alone, wanderer, against the light of the world. Alone.

If only mankind had no need of walls.

(Fiction and Photography by Alexander Pappalardo)

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.