Currently reading Citizen Illegal, a book of poetry by Jose Olivarez. I keep coming back to these
Mexican woman (illegal) and Mexican man (illegal)
have a Mexican (illegal)-American (citizen).
is the baby more Mexican or American?
place the baby in the arms of the mother (lllegal).
if the mother holds the baby (citizen)
too long, does the baby become illegal?
the baby is a boy (citizen). he goes to school (citizen).
his classmates are American (citizen). he is outcast (lllegal).
his "hellos" are in the wrong language (illegal).
he takes the hyphen separating loneliness (Mexican)
from friendship (American) and jabs it at the culprit (illegal).
himself (illegal). his own traitorous tongue (illegal).
his name (illegal). his mom (illegal). his dad (illegal).
take a Mexican woman (illegal) and a Mexican man (illegal).
if they have a baby and the baby looks white enough to pass (citizen).
if the baby grows up singing Selena songs to his reflection (illegal).
if the baby hides from el cucuy and la migra (illegal).
if the baby (illegal) (citizen) grows up to speak broken Spanish (illegal)
and perfect English (citizen). if the boy's nickname is Guerito (citizen).
if the boy attends college (citizen). if the boy only dates women (illegal)
of color (illegal). if the boy (illegal)
uses phrases like "women of color" (citizen).
if the boy (illegal) (citizen) writes (illegal) poems (illegal).
if the boy (citizen) (illegal) grows up (illegal) and can only write (illegal)
this story in English (citizen), does that make him more
American (citizen) or Mexican (illegal)?
My Parents Fold Like Luggage
my parents fold like luggage
into the trunk of a Toyota Tercel.
stars glitter against a black sky.
from the sky, the Tercel is a small lady
bug traveling north. from the sky,
borders do not exist. the Tercel stops
in front of a man in green. stars glitter
like broken glass. the night so heavy
it chokes. in the trunk, it is starless.
my parents protect this moment. this now.
what folds them into the trunk of a Tercel.
the belief that the folding will end.
it doesn't. dollars fold into bills. my parents
near breaking. broke. they protect what might
unfold them to discover they are six:
a family. if the man in green opens the trunk,
the road folds back. this moment & everything
that follows disappears into the ink of a police report.
why doesn't he open the trunk? my parents say
god blessed us. maybe they are right.
but I think about that night & wonder where
god was -- a million miles away in the stars,
in the shared breath between my parents, maybe
everywhere. maybe nowhere. from the sky,
the man in green is so small it is impossible
to see him wave. from the sky, it is impossible
to hear whether my parents cheer or pray
as the car steals north.