The Border Simulator


About the Book

A world-bending, lyrically rich poetry collection that reimagines the U.S.-Mexico border as both a real place and a living simulation—and tells the story of a pair of siblings trapped between the two

“Word coyote Gabriel Dozal is crossing borders with this story. It’s his job: narrative poetry discovering a new language.”—Sandra Cisneros, author of Woman Without Shame

“This crosser is a possession that someone wants but we’re not sure who
and the crosser must often possess themselves. In perpetuity”

In Gabriel Dozal’s debut collection, the U.S.-Mexico border is redefined as a place of invention; crossing it becomes a matter of simulation. The poems accompany Primitivo, who attempts to cross the border, an imaginary boundary that becomes more real and challenging as his journey progresses; and his sister, Primitiva, who lives an alternate, static life as an exploited migrant worker in la fabrica. 

The tech world and bureaucracy collide, with humanity falling by the wayside, as Primitiva endures drudgery in la fabrica. “In the past our ID cards were decorative. Now we switch off with someone else, another worker who will wipe the serenade from our eyes.” With no way to escape the simulation, Primitivo and Primitiva must participate in it, scheming to gain its favor. To win, you must be the best performer in the factory, the best imitation of a citizen, the best machine.

Featuring a bilingual format for English and Spanish readers, The Border Simulator explores physical and metaphysical borders, as well as the digital divide of our modern era. With inventive imagery, spirited wordplay, and thrilling movement, these energetic poems oscillate between the harrowing and the joyful, interrogating, innovating, and ultimately redefining binaries and divisions.
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Praise for The Border Simulator

“Word coyote Gabriel Dozal is crossing borders with this story. It’s his job: narrative poetry discovering a new language. We, the readers, are the customs agent. Will we let it cross? It’s the poet’s job to smuggle this story to us, to issue it papers, without us realizing it. ‘Language is expensive, / silence is expensive.’ In the end, Dozal’s poetry asks: Which side of the fence are you on?”—Sandra Cisneros, author of Woman Without Shame

“A new technology altogether—one that undoes the fabrication of the border so that we may see clearly all its violences & stories & teeth . . . Dozal’s poems are urgent/insurgent & will stick with me for a long time.”—José Olivarez, author of Promises of Gold

“This multilingual romp that Dozal and Tiniacos have given us is so smart and savvy in its multivalent, trailblazing, translational forms, so adept in its deadly playful linguistic experimentation, in its many genres of detainment. This book is a one-of-a-kind stunner.”—Daniel Borzutzky, National Book Award–winning author of The Performance of Becoming Human

“Brilliant, ambitious . . . This collection goes far beyond reimagining the U.S.-Mexico border and asks us to reckon with how technology simulates a border between insiders and outsiders, gamifying our distrust. . . . A wild Choose Your Own Adventure for the twenty-first century.”—Leigh Stein, author of What to Miss When

“Finally, an epic, capable of detecting the minutest spectral workings of border history in the making, stands before us. . . . A masterpiece of structurally interlocking new fables . . . It is a literary spectrometer of social possibilities. As Dozal puts it, ‘Where’s the pastfuture border?’”—Rodrigo Toscano, author of Explosion Rocks Springfield
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The Border Simulator

Border vs

The Border Simulator (like the real border) was made up
of narratives that passed inspection, ports of entry÷ poems
that have artificial rivers have brother and sister
stream down holographic mountains in an attempt to reach
the lower valley’s work floor.

This brother and sister duo,
Primitivo and Primitiva,
are parts of a border
story that exist vs invented ones,
and the stories are looking for work!

Frontera vs

El simulador de fronteras (como la verdadera frontera) fue hecho
de narraciones que pasaron la inspección, puertos de entrada÷ poemas
que tienen ríos artificiales tienen hermano y hermana
torrente entre montañas holográficas en un intento de alcanzar
el piso de trabajo del valle inferior.

Este dúo de hermano y hermana,
Primitivo y Primitiva,
son partes de una historia
de frontera que existe vs las inventadas,
¡y las historias están en busca de trabajo!

The Work of the Border Is Clean Up and Dry Cleaning

Guess my weight, Primitivo; guess what size shirt I wear.
I know the weight of your Daewoo, Primi.
Us Customs already have the answers to the questions
Where did Primitivo and Primitiva come from?

When is Primitivo a past version of himself?
When is Primitivo a future version?

Where’s the pastfuture border?

This is what Primitivo is searching for, the elusive present moment.
A moment covered in snow
cap lard. Did you make this snowcapped moment, Primitivo?
You’ve never even seen snow, how could you?
Or did us Customs lard up the moment? You tell us, Primitivo.
That’s the quiz at the port of entry. He’s not sure
what’s on the other side but he knows it’s better than his real job.

Get on the right side of the border, the side with jobs.
You’re on the wrong side of the border AND the wrong side of
history, Primi.

El trabajo de la frontera es limpiar y lavar al seco

Adivina mi peso, Primitivo; adivina la talla de la camisa que llevo.
Sé cuánto pesa tu Daewoo, Primi.
Nosotros Aduanas ya tenemos las respuestas a las preguntas.
¿De dónde vienen Primitivo y Primitiva?

¿Cuándo es Primitivo una versión pasada de sí mismo?
¿Cuándo es Primitivo una versión futura?

¿Dónde está la frontera pasadafutura?

Esto es lo que Primitivo busca, el momento elusivo del presente.
Un momento pico nevado
de manteca. ¿Sentiste como manteca este momento, Primitivo?
Nunca has visto la nieve, ¿cómo podrías?
¿O nosotros, Aduanas, enmatecamos el momento? Tú dinos, Primitivo.
Esa es la prueba en el puerto de entrada. Él no está seguro de
qué es lo que hay del otro lado, pero sabe que es mejor que su
trabajo verdadero.

Ponte en el lado correcto de la frontera, el lado con trabajos.
Estás en el lado incorrecto de la frontera Y el lado incorrecto de
la historia, Primi.

About the Author

Gabriel Dozal
Decorative Carat

About the Author

Natasha Tiniacos
Decorative Carat
Random House Publishing Group