She is desperate. Desperate to get back home to babes
Whose mouths have not tasted her milk in far too many days.
He is exhausted, a husband too distraught to brush hair or tie shoelaces.
Now unemployed, the nearly empty fridge haunts him in his sleep.
He reaches over the pillow and her hand is not there but her heart is.
Her heart is, and so she gives in and signs voluntary departure,
though no free will is present in the room.
Her apology echoes off the walls as she leaves iron bars behind,
Neck forever cramped from looking back to those still caged within.
Checking that the pieces of herself placed strategicallydignity
preserved in the folds of her uniform,
strength wrapped tenderly around steel handcuffs,
hope tucked into dusty corners of cementwill
keep her comrades company until they too are free.
It’s like they put her on death row
With a final order of removal to execute the ghost of her American presence.
They didn’t even offer her a final meal,
though tonight their own children will eat the tomatoes that her husband picked in the fields
for dinner and be satisfied.
They will be satisfied, while her own children remain hungry for justice.
Infiltration is such a strong word.
But you must learn to hold its heat in your mouth,
Press its discomfort into the backs of your teeth,
Swish it around until your throat burns from its consequence,
Lest they pry it from your lips like they did your native tongue.
In our hands, we hold the umbrellas that keep us in the shadows.
But we are too fearful of reclaiming sunlight to let them go,
and it is not even raining.
It is not even raining yet our thoughts of self-hate strike us like thunder,
leaving the faint scent of burnt melanin in its wake.
Our bodies have been stripped of their majesty,
And we are now too comfortable being wallflowers.
We tiptoe around as if society is a minefield,
Yet it is in her heart where she has hidden that grenade,
And every “Go Back to Mexico” sends her trembling hand
Inching closer to pull that pin and detonate her dreams so she no longer has to defer them.
It’s more like stepping into the future to pay a visit to ourselves
Like looking into the mirror and discovering that
Your reflection has been deported in your absence.
If there are truly spoils of war,
Then we are all the trophies of white supremacy,
Generations upon generations of cheap labor
Provided by disposable brown bodies that need never reach for the American Dream,
because it is an exercise in futility.
Have we come this far, that we can no longer dream in the language of our ancestors?
Have we come this far, that even our dreams are defined by imperialism?
That our self-loathing is tied to our survival?
That our success is couched in Western ideals?
Illegal. I am illegal.
We have to confront the ugly in ourselves if we are ever to overcome it.
We have to confront the ugly in our struggle if we are ever to overcome it.
We have to confront the ugly in our communities if we are ever to overcome it.
So let us be ugly together.
Let us be ugly together, for ugly pain yields power
Like the contractions that come before giving birth.
It teaches you how to scream after years of being told you have no voice.
Ugly pain refuses to be swept under the rug,
to be bribed by gilded handcuffs wrapped in a freedom gift box.
Ugly pain does not forget.
It does not hide the battle scars that are only visible to the battle-weary.
Illegal is such a strong word.
But it, too, must come out of the shadows.
Though at times we must wrap ourselves
in the security blanket and safety of undocumented to survive,
It is time to don our illegal suit of armor
And prepare to go to war with our internalized hate,
Swords of forgiveness raised to the sky,
Leaving empty shells of our egos scattered across the battlefield.
No one tells you what happens to the butterfly
After that first part of its migration.
No one will believe you when you explain that
Deport Them All is not just a magic trick.
It is made of broken tail lights and working without papers;
of driving while brown or simply being in the passenger’s seat.
It is real. It is no prophecy; it is today.
And tomorrow, what if we said, deport me instead?
Our collective ugly would be beautiful.
We could swell jail cells with our capacity,
like they rob us short of our humanity.
We could offer up our bodies like sacrificial lambs in orange jumpsuits
And dare them to feast on their own shame.
And what if we do nothing,
Grip our umbrellas tight until our knuckles turn white?
Do not let me lose this battle with my own complacency.
Do not let me face these demons alone.
So tired from fighting that that only way to stand shoulder to shoulder
Is if we lean on each other.
Let the blood from my wounds drip into yours and make us family.
Let us drill holes in each others pipelines
So that yellow and brown and black bodies may breathe shared oxygen.
Let us be ugly together.
Let us be ugly for our mothers for whom this country’s beauty has forsaken,
for our fathers who leave their dignity behind at home for safekeeping
before standing in parking lots for their livelihood.
And if the callouses on their hands could speak,
they would yell, “Pick me! Choose me! Open the door, America. Please, just open the door.”
I’ll show you my pain if you show me your truth.
Let us shrug off this cloak of pretense and open the curtains of rhetoric.
Let me take your hand in mine and hold it so tight that
Our grip will send a message that Enough! Not. One. More. Casualty in this War.
Let us do it for them,
of MICE and women,
so that we may one day,
do it for ourselves.
Kemi Bello is “a black undocumented womyn fighting back in my own way.”
This was written based on the infiltration of Calhoun County Jail by Claudia Munoz, an undocumented immigrant. http://action.dreamactivist.org/mice
More of Kemi’s poetry at: http://kemee.tumblr.com/poems
NotOneMoreDeportation.com is a campaign made of individuals, organizations, artists, and allies to expose, confront, and overcome unjust immigration laws.
As the immigration debate continues, #Not1More enters the discussion from the place that touches people in concrete ways and can offer tangible relief. By collectively challenging unfair deportations and unjust policy through organizing, art, legislation, and action, we aim to reverse criminalization, build migrant power, and create immigration policies based on principles of inclusion.
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I want to be part of the movement to stop deportations and win inclusion.