"All I Know is Here" - a poem for dreamers

The following poem is inspired by a New York Times article by David Gonzalez. It was written during the Obama administration. It felt right to share it today.

“All I Know Is Here”

By Joe Hernandez-Kolski

I can’t sleep

I tend to live in my head overanalyzing everything

And, yes, I know, they keep telling me I should relax more

But, please, I just turned thirteen!

My father walked into the store today

He said

Mi’ja happy birthday!

Close the cash register

Come here

Your mother and I know that you’re excited to enter high school

You’re excelling in every class

Getting straight A’s

We know you love math

You’ve already skipped two grades

We’ve decided to give you

Something we never completed

We’re returning to the US to finish your education

I smile but it’s half-hearted

My parents tried once before

My father graduated at the top of his class in Quito, Ecuador

And went to the U.S. on a legal student visa

He was a big engineering stud

He found out that my mom was pregnant with me

So he dropped out and returned to Ecuador to be with my mom

And me

And then he smuggled us back into the U.S. illegally

It was a difficult decision to make

But he once said

I will do whatever it takes

To support my family

My mother found herself working in a mattress factory in Miami

We couldn’t make ends meet

And before long

Goodbye U.S.!

Hello Ecuador, otra vez!

So now here we go again

I said goodbye and hugged all my friends

And here I lay unable to sleep

Please, lord, help open some doors

I open my eyes…

And I’m on the streets of New York City Queens

The years have passed by

Now I need coffee to survive

I’m twenty-two years old

And although it’s 95 degrees outside

The future feels frightfully cold

I graduated from high school with honors

However without those random nine numbers

I can’t go to college out of state

No scholarships no financial aid

At least the city colleges of New York

Offer a tuition reduction

With no required social security card

I’m surrounded by others like me

Speaking 25 different languages

From 32 different countries

Freda missed large parts of school living in war-torn Sierra Leone

Claudia from Mexico wrote poems and essays so beautiful in Spanish

Yet struggled with her English classes

She wanted to be a doctor in her hometown

Now so broken down

She cleans offices with her mother downtown

And then there was the Guatemalan boy from my statistics class

Forced to return to his country

After two weeks of living there, he became a statistic

Killed by the gang members who he fled the country to escape

I know that I’m meant for more

But constantly fear that someone’s gonna show up at my door

And tell me

You don’t belong here

Why are you even trying anymore?

My friends are heading to Vegas for a bachelorette party

With no I.D.

I’d have to take a two-day bus ride while they choose to fly

I’m almost ready to cave in to my mom’s advice

And marry an American

I don’t believe in marriage without love

But I can’t go back to Ecuador

All I know is here

If I leave, my application for citizenship could take the mandatory ten years

I am over-qualified and under-paid

And yet…

As much as I complain

At the end of every day, I give thanks for five things that happened that day

One – thank you for my family

Two - thank you for my boyfriend

A young man from Mexico

Undocumented like me

Who I met at a Dream Act rally

We spend time together volunteering

And although my mother teases me

In the end she just wants to see me happy

Three – thank you for my book-keeping job

Four – Thank you so much for the President’s deferred action plan

My approval notice came in the mail today

My nine random numbers

Temporary but so needed and appreciated

And five…

Lord, thank you for letting the train arrive on time today

If I had to spend one more minute on that hot-as-hell platform

I would’ve yelled at somebody!

It’s been a tough year

But we manage

Family members in Ecuador tempt us with job offers

But my parents resist their pleas

They’ve done so much to see us succeed

And we will not let them down

Because we are a new breed

Born from our parents’ cultures and American opportunity

We are everything that our parents want us to be

We stand on their shoulders

And if there’s one thing on which my friends and I agree

It’s that we prepare for what we think will come tomorrow

But accept each day’s adventures as they arrive

I let the tears roll down my cheeks

Because now I can finally sleep

In my home

In America.