The submissions deadline is Friday, February 17, 2023.
She’s been in this country since before she said her first words or learned her ABCs
Her first steps were walked on the same soil as yours were,
and it was on this land that her tufts of
peach fuzz turned into the locks they are now.
How is she any less American than you?
He spends hours picking tomatoes, red like dried blood encased in cracks on his knuckles.
His stomach pleads, begs for food as he shucks corn, again and again,
*CHHHHH CHHHHH CHHHHH*
so your dinner plate isn’t empty.
He picks and picks, shucks and shucks all day.
Nail beds bleeding, throat dry from lack of water, like sun beating down on his hot back
She gets home from work,
her back aching and her knees bruised from hours she has spent kneeling over toilets
scrubbing them raw,
her eyes teary from bottles and bottles products she uses to make silk expensive luxurious clothes
She gets home from work drained
worrying that after fourteen hours it still isn’t enough
Every morning she looks at her reflection and her frizzy hair speaks and tells her,
“You are not American.”
She spends hours trying to flatten her hair, trying to dull the voice
and make her thick brown hair thin like girls in her class.
She pretends like she can’t hear when her classmates call her an alien, put her in a zoo for them to spectate.
Pick and put in the basket
Pick and put in the basket
Over and over
“Faster!” they scream
faster and faster he goes so they don’t call him “lazy”
His life orbits around this one motion like earth does sun
It is the only thing keeping him and his family alive
When the day is done he returns home with little to nothing than he had the day before
Night after night her memories conquer her mind like stars filling the sky
Her baby boy had brown hair that could never be held down by a comb
His smile was a lottery ticket, once in a lifetime opportunity, first snowfall of the season
His cheeks round and red like so many apples that are picked by her people every day
His little plump hands were soft and smooth unknown to dry skin or calluses
His eyes sparkled still, peaceful blue
He was her everything
She wishes that she could go home to her mother and father
waiting for her at the door like families in all the Hallmark movies,
So she tries to hide her loathing and embarrassment of her parents
when they come back after 14 hour shifts, with their joints aching from endlessly
picking, harvesting, shoving, cleaning, and being treated
like they are anything but humans.
He is tired.
Tired of his employers forgetting to add a few 100 dollars to his paycheck.
Tired of having to hear his wife tell him about how she is assaulted, by white men
who chew on her and then spit her out like gum.
Tired of watching his children come home, bruises pasted on their faces
that cover their expressions of guilt and embarrassment for being where they are from.
Her son was her everything
yet thin green paper invaded her mind and poisoned her thoughts
Because when her baby boy can’t get better
can’t get healthy you start questioning everything
America is the only solution to fix everything
So she left
Left her perfect boy and didn’t stay to watch him turn into a man
She has been nothing but a friendly neighbor, a straight A student, a helping hand.
She never learned Spanish for fear people would realize that her caramel skin
isn’t the same shade as your fair skin.
She followed all of your rules.
Land of opportunity,
But he is not living a dream
This is a nightmare
But no matter how many times he pinches himself,
he can never wake up
She crossed the border, wall that divides her from her baby boy
Crossed the border with nothing in her hands
But in her mind she carried the hope that this would help
Not knowing that America would be filled with fear and terror that one day
She will pay the price for stepping across the border
And treated as if she will never be American
You call her a “criminal” just because all those years ago she passed the barrier
into her true home.
How can you look at her brown skin and imagine
badged men coming behind her, bringing her down to her knees
as she bellows to be left alone, reaching out for her home but her hands are tied back.
How could you deny her from being American?
She has come here to help her family and yet her black hair and light brown skin
make it so that she will never be able to relax, take a breath
And if she does try and come up for air you will not help her
You will push her back into the water so that she can’t get any air
and watch her as she sinks deeper and deeper into dark shameful water
Watch as she disappears
He gave his life to this country, and for what in return?
He is exhausted, and yet his country continues to use his dream as a punching bag,
knocking him down every chance they get.
You don’t belong
You are not American
But they are American
Nearly 15% of the US population are immigrants
They are real