Immigrants in Our Own Land
JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA
We are born with dreams in our hearts,
looking for better days ahead.
At the gates we are given new papers,
our old clothes are taken
and we are given overalls like mechanics wear.
We are given shots and doctors ask questions.
Then we gather in another room
where counselors orient us to the new land
we will now live in. We take tests.
Some of us were craftsmen in the old world,
good with our hands and proud of our work.
Others were good with their heads.
They used common sense like scholars
use glasses and books to reach the world.
But most of us didn’t finish high school.
The old men who have lived here stare at us,
from deep disturbed eyes, sulking, retreated.
We pass them as they stand around idle,
leaning on shovels and rakes or against walls.
Our expectations are high: in the old world,
they talked about rehabilitation,
about being able to finish school,
and learning an extra good trade.
But right away we are sent to work as dishwashers,
to work in fields for three cents an hour.
The administration says this is temporary
So we go about our business, blacks with blacks,
poor whites with poor whites,
chicanos and indians by themselves.
The administration says this is right,
no mixing of cultures, let them stay apart,
like in the old neighborhoods we came from.
We came here to get away from false promises,
from dictators in our neighborhoods,
who wore blue suits and broke our doors down
when they wanted, arrested us when they felt like,
swinging clubs and shooting guns as they pleased.
But it’s no different here. It’s all concentrated.
The doctors don’t care, our bodies decay,
our minds deteriorate, we learn nothing of value.
Our lives don’t get better, we go down quick.
My cell is crisscrossed with laundry lines,
my T-shirts, boxer shorts, socks and pants are drying.
Just like it used to be in my neighborhood:
from all the tenements laundry hung window to window.
Across the way Joey is sticking his hands
through the bars to hand Felipé a cigarette,
men are hollering back and forth cell to cell,
saying their sinks don’t work,
or somebody downstairs hollers angrily
about a toilet overflowing,
or that the heaters don’t work.
I ask Coyote next door to shoot me over
a little more soap to finish my laundry.
I look down and see new immigrants coming in,
mattresses rolled up and on their shoulders,
new haircuts and brogan boots,
looking around, each with a dream in their heart,
thinking they’ll get a chance to change their lives.
But in the end, some will just sit around
talking about how good the old world was.
Some of the younger ones will become gangsters.
Some will die and others will go on living
without a soul, a future, or a reason to live.
Some will make it out of here with hate in their eyes,
but so very few make it out of here as human
as they came in, they leave wondering what good they are now
as they look at their hands so long away from their tools,
as they look at themselves, so long gone from their families,
so long gone from life itself, so many things have changed.
It's the Fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.
And I'm grilling, I've got my apron,
I've got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I've got a hat shaped
like the state of Pennsylvania.
I ask my father what's his pleasure
and he says, "Hot dog, medium rare,"
and then, "Hamburger, sure,
what's the big difference,"
as if he's really asking.
I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins
are fluttering away like lost messages.
"You're running around," my mother says,
"like a chicken with its head loose."
"Ma," I say, "you mean cut off,
loose and cut off being as far apart
as, say, son and daughter."
She gives me a quizzical look as though
I've been caught in some impropriety.
"I love you and your sister just the same," she says,
"Sure," my grandmother pipes in,
"you're both our children, so why worry?"
That's not the point I begin telling them,
and I'm comparing words to fish now,
like the ones in the sea at Port Said,
or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,
unrepentantly elusive, wild.
"Sonia," my father says to my mother,
"what the hell is he talking about?"
"He's on a ball," my mother says.
"That's roll!" I say, throwing up my hands,
"as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll...."
"And what about roll out the barrels?" my mother asks,
and my father claps his hands, "Why sure," he says,
"let's have some fun," and launches
into a polka, twirling my mother
around and around like the happiest top,
and my uncle is shaking his head, saying
"You could grow nuts listening to us,"
and I'm thinking of pistachios in the Sinai
burgeoning without end,
pecans in the South, the jumbled
flavor of them suddenly in my mouth,
crowding out everything else.
On this night of the mid-
summer festival of fire,
where liquid explosives
look like the arch and ache
of the willow tree
so near your grave, on this
night of the awaiting mid-
wife who lulled you in-
to this world, the light
all violet because the Earth and stars
inclined toward each other,
she also sleeps, she who was
your first deliverer, guiding you out
of your mother—her bluing
skin no small sign of the future
cyanosis of her spirit for no
small journey was it to this
country to bring you to birth
in this torch
song heat and an anthem of a free
nation's conception of combustions:
rosins, petroleum, tallow, arsenic
and worse, as you, too, fell from the sky
of her body with me
a microscopic egg inside—
half the composition
that made up my own
toss and tumble to this crash
of ground I sit over and bless
while you lie under, under
the willow, under this world
that no midwife
nor wavelength can under-
standably reach. So I stand
in this over-
determined fire forced out
like bullets upon a target—
the pulled trigger releasing
the hammer that strikes
the impacted mixture—
hailstorm and hymn
of memories. And the outstretched womb
involutes and the abdominal wall tightens
and inside all abandoned encasements
the night over the day darkens.
The Landlord's Tale. Paul Revere's Ride
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
Then he said, "Good night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade, —
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, —
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled, —
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Debra L. Brown
When we think about the birth
of this great nation,
Congress declared July the 4th 1776
and issued a proclamation.
With this decree, the thirteen colonies
are now free.
We will no longer live
under England's Monarchy.
Five great men
were given the task
to draw up papers
for freedom at last.
we can remember.
A founding father,
Patriot and a Continental member.
Together these men
drafted the amendments.
Franklin, Livingstone, Sherman and Adams,
united they authored the Declarations of Independence.
Battles were fought,
and blood was shed.
Life was lost,
and men were dead.
"FREEDOM" came with
A heavy price.
War is not pretty,
nor is it nice.
We can thank
the Lord above.
He gave us these United States,
a country we can love.
Men fought for our freedom,
and with their lives they did pay.
That's why we celebrate
Every day more soldiers have to leave
to fight this war so we can be free.
they pack light to set out on their way
praying the war will end some day.
we have lost young and lost old
but all of those men were so strong and bold
In reality it doesn't seem too fair
but when at war there is no time to care.
once in a while they may get a letter
from loved ones at home feeling a little bit better
They let them know they miss them so
but no time to cry the men must go.
They fold their letters up real tight
Putting them away for another lonely night.
slowly they rise to take their stand
as each American soldier salutes with right hand.
They yell that they will be home soon
but tonight they're going to sleep with the moon
but not alone they have one another
To an American soldier those men are his brothers.
Each and everything they do
Is without a doubt for me and for you.
honestly, how many sit and pray
for each and every soldier on the field that day?
They don't draw names to see who they protect
So why need a face to match the respect?
They don't get hot home cooked meals
and I bet they would love a steak from the grill.
They are American Soldiers standing tall and proud
They deserve our respect, don't be ashamed, scream it out loud.
but at times, a soldier has no choice but to sleep
with those words I will close for now.
Saying as I go GOD BLESS AND REST IN PEACE.........
The Infantry Prayer
When the day is done for the infantry,
they bow their heads and take a knee,
they clasp their hands and start to pray,
that they may live another day,
should a challenge for them ever arise,
they would proudly meet it with open eyes,
soldiers fight with the honor and pride,
moving any and all fear to the side,
a soldier's family and freedom is his core,
for wanting to ever fight a war.
Let Freedom Ring Out Loud
Forty years an American, Thirty years knowing what that means.
America The Beautiful, The Star Spangled Banner, Let Freedom Ring.
"Let Freedom Ring Out Loud", I say.
Ring louder than ever on this historical day.
Emancipation Proclamation was Lincoln's plea.
After four years of war the slaves were set free.
Secession from the Union brought to a halt,
Following years of segregation, Americans at fault.
Brave men and women risks their lives,
On their journey for true freedom and equal rights.
Living through hate, ignorance, unspeakable sins,
Simply asking to be judged as people, not the color of their skin.
On this day, I make special note.
August 26th, 1920 The 19th Amendment gave me the right to vote.
Not African American, American Indian, Only God knows what,
I consider myself an American Mutt.
Serving their Nation, My Grandfather, My Father, and now my son,
They serve not for all. But, for each and every one.
We've done it, without doubt one of our largest wins,
Today we watched proof of equality for all men.
No matter from where my family came, we are Americans just the same.
As an American, I've always been proud.
On this day I hear freedom ringing out loud.
Many people have died to make America's dreams come true.
Driven by patriotism carrying our Flag of Red, White, and Blue.
In stone, on memorials, we've printed their names,
Knowing not one of them have died in vain.
A piece of history, an awesome event.
Today a black man became America's forty-fourth President.
To happen in my lifetime, to witness this event, I realize
To the World, the powerful message we've sent.
This man, now our Commander in Chief,
Promises our Nation the changes we need.
Spirits lifted, moved by his speech,
Nations stood still to hear this man speak.
Millions cheered in a united mass.
Celebrating the now, future, and even the past.
So very proud of Americans, proud of this day, I stand with you all, saying,
"God Has Blessed The USA!"
Again I must say,
"Let Freedom Ring. Ring Out Loud Today."
Praying for America
Father, keep us safe,
as we celebrate . . .
our country’s freedoms
that have made us great.
Let us not go further,
down the road of sin
help us to turn from
the wickedness within.
Bring us back,
to trusting in You
give this Nation
a heart that is new.
Make us humble,
let us see our shame
so we can prayerfully
call upon Your name.
Heal our land,
scour out the pride
so You can be
once again our guide.
Father, keep us safe,
until such a time
this Nation comes out
of its downward climb!