Today’s submission, from Jessica Lantos, shows us just how deeply the effects of the Trumpet (mis)administration’s attitudes towards immigration permeate every level of society. They are never abstract, and it’s always about people.
The table in this always crowded school basement needed a matchbook to prop up the leg. The folding chairs were cold and metal and we heaped our coats and bags on a chair while we sat in our regular seats together at the corner as if on a date so we could hear each other in the room that was filled with more tables that wobbled and people speaking languages I didn’t know. She brought her workbook out of her bag along with a pencil, the kind given out to elementary students for good behavior or as favors at birthday parties all silver and pink. Long Division. I thought we were going to work on English, I told her and she said yes, we could, but she didn’t know how to do her homework and just wrote in the answers her teacher wrote on the board but didn’t know how to divide. She was quiet and grateful, not realizing my comprehension of math was maybe a lesson ahead of hers. She showed me the way she worked through the problem, drawing boxes and filling in with numbers and I watched her, her head tilted, her quiet counting, her dark fingers holding her pencil, writing her twos with fancy curls. I thought of her new home here in cold and snow, her in her long flowing colorful skirt and her black headscarf and the smile I could see up close where she would share it. She’d told me she’d come here a year ago to visit her brother and had been chased down the street by a man yelling at her. Go home! He had a gun. She hid. She had no phone. She didn’t remember where her brother lived. She spoke no English. I held her eyes. I grasped her arm. I apologized. We are all people, she said. How to protect this strong solemn smart woman who has learned my language and become a citizen of the country I call home all within a year and now spends time with me learning math and the superlative in this school basement, sharing stories of her father she left behind in Djibouti who has lost his memory and doesn’t know who she is when she calls him every day? Here with her I am not a week ahead of understanding.
© Jessica Lantos – 2017
Her blog is located at notjustforspecialoccasions.blogspot.com.
For the first 100 days of the Trumpet administration, this blog will feature a new poem of protest, by my own hand and by others. They will be polished gems, or rough cut drafts of rage, or in process pieces searching for peace. They may be haiku or tanka, limericks or lyrics, verses free or fettered. If you would like to submit to this endeavor, please send an email, with poem saved as a word document (.docx) to waxyandpoetic AT gmail DOT com. All rights remain with the author.
VISUAL ARTISTS ! Do you have something visually poetic that you’d like to submit? GO FOR IT!
Please address any formatting preferences in your email. I will post submissions time permitting, with at least one per day. Editing will be limited to obvious errors of spelling and the like.
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