National Poetry Month: Send us your poem about immigration

An unidentified detainee at the Northwest Detention Center in 2008. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

April is National Poetry Month, and while there are many ways to celebrate, one I enjoy is participating in the 30/30. Writing 30 poems in 30 days, one a day, like a vitamin to stimulate the creative juices in your soul… or to taunt and frustrate you mercilessly, depending on the day.

Sometimes you need a prompt to get you started. One recent source of inspiration for me has been the ongoing series of protests outside of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

Though I have only been there once, it is a place that made a deep impression.

In 2008, I met someone. We dated for about five months and then one day he was just gone. I don’t mean gone, like we had a fight and he stopped calling. I mean gone, like his housemates called me because he hadn’t been home in days, nor had he been to work. I called hospitals. I called jail. I waited. I wondered.

Then about two weeks after he went missing, I got a call from the Detention Center. Unlike jail, you are not afforded a free call, and my boyfriend had been detained without any money. It took him time to make friends who gave him what he needed to call me and let me know that he was about to be deported.

At the time I had no car, so I enlisted a friend to drive me to Tacoma. There I stood in line for almost an hour in a room that smelled like shit because there was no bathroom available before you passed through security and many mothers had to change their children’s diapers while waiting in line. I have never been, but I imagine this was what it was like to visit a loved one in prison. The lines, the metal detector, miserable armed guards glaring at you with contempt.

We said our last goodbyes separated by a partition of thick glass. I never saw him again. He was deported… sent back “home.”

No, I haven’t been back to the detention center, not even to protest, but I think about it often.

I think about citizenship and borders, how a group of foreigners could immigrate to a country, commit multiple genocides to colonize it, and then tell everyone else that they can’t live here without the proper papers.

Yes, there is a soap box sermon waiting to happen, but instead I leave you with a poem and a prompt.

Prompt: “When I get home…” “My home is where ____”: Write a poem about your relationship to home. What is home to you? What does it mean to be a citizen?

Send your poem to reagan(at)seattleglobalist.com by Saturday, April 20th. We’ll post them on SeattleGlobalist.com and our Facebook Page the following week.

 

America: U.S. and Them

As published in “God, Hair, Love, and America

They were singing for America

Crying out for America

Eating, dying, dreaming of America

Pledging allegiance to an indivisible nation

Hands over heart

stars and stripes

so blinding

in the light of

Mourning

the loss of

the illusion of sanctuary

the death of

a nation comatose with amnesia

because finally

we were witnesses

to something

we

would

NEVER

Forget

(never forget…)

Ash and rubble burnt into retinas

the empty space in a skyline

stars and stripes so blinding

in the darkest night

of our country’s own

desecration.

But from the ashes rose a fear

and from this fear

emerged a creation

a new brand of Other

(other, other…)

a thickening of borders between

us and them

U.S. and Them

Them, They, Those People

Them, They, Those People

Them, They, Those Foreigners

Those Terrorists

And who could dismiss

the truths

that were

self evident

that They had committed

The Crime

They, Them Those

faceless amorphous Terrorists

They, Them, Those Foreigners

And us, we, you and me,

A nation of Americans

blind in our grieving

never forgetting what

They had done

never remembering

that innocence is not a nationality

that even the pilgrims

were immigrants

singing for America

crying out for America

eating, dying, dreaming of America

Pledging allegiance to a nation indivisible

Hands over broken hearts…

Could I be the same?

Stand and say the pledge I know by heart

the way I stood and said my last goodbyes to him

hand pressed against the glass against his hand

bitter tears for a lover

who was not

the right kind of American

wrong color, wrong accent, wrong papers,

wrong place at the wrong time

wrong to think that

freedom and justice

were rights – that in America- couldn’t be denied.

How long?

How long did we stand in that line?

…to see our friends and families

one last time

in America….

Our fathers, mothers, lovers, cousins, sisters, and brothers

They, Them, Those People

Are PEOPLE

OUR People

locked in glass cages

numbered criminals

disappeared for the sake of

a nation deeply divided

a people ambivalent

and undecided

complicit and complacent

entirely too damn patient

when it’s clear

THIS

ISN’T

WORKING

Remember when WE were singing for America?

Crying out for America?

Marching in the streets

Hands over hearts

Pledging our lives to the struggle

To make this America

OUR America

A place worth singing for…

 

Need more inspiration? Check out Jordan Chaney’s poem “Conflict: A Poem for America’s Migrant Workers”

2 Comments

  1. I wish Ms. Jackson had explained to us why she believes that people should not be able to own their homes? Does she believe that United States is the only country that has no right to exist or does she think that no countries should have borders and rules to live by?

  2. Wigglwagon thank you for taking the time to read my article. To clarify, my goal in writing was to invite people to share a poem about their thoughts on home and immigration. Something I have found strangely lacking from the recent discussions about immigration reform is an acknowledgement of how culturally relative the ideas of ownership and citizenship are. When Europeans first arrived, First Nation people did not share their understanding that land was even something that could be “owned”. This was not a part of their cultural ethos. As definitions evolve, I think we should all question whether borders and citizenship are helping or hurting us. During my visit to the detention center I met a family of five brothers and sisters, the oldest had just turned 21. They were there to visit their parents who, after 25 years of living in the US, were being deported. All five brothers and sisters were US citizens, born in the USA. But clearly their parents had over the course of 25 years made a home in the US. Is it any less their home than it is my home, simply because I happened to be born in Iowa? I’m tired of over simplification. This is a complex issue with more questions than answers and I would like this to be a forum for multiple opinions and ideas to be expressed. Hope you’ll write a poem.

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