This pic was taken at Camp Afflerbaugh-Paige, a juvenile detention facility where I taught a writing workshop. I wasn't allowed to take a pic of the kids faces so I decided to take a pic of our feet but the boys started putting their hands in the pic one-by-one. They just wanna be seen.
The following poem is based on a New York Times article by David Gonzalez.
I wrote it during the Obama administration. I feel it’s even more important to share these days.
"All I Know Is Here - a poem for dreamers"
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.
Mi’ja happy birthday!
Close the cash register
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 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
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
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
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
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
Dear Future Wife:
I know, right?
I’m not sure why we haven’t met yet either
Actually that’s not true
I’m pretty sure I know it’s my fault
I thought I had to have it aaaaall figured out like:
Money in the bank
Hair style appropriate for my age?
Am I a success?
Do I have a happy life!
Let’s go find a wife!
And I kept being like
“I know why every date ends the same
Cuz I know everything about HER except her name”
SHE will be a short
Brunette catholic Latina
From the city of Chicago
Just like me
And she loves to dance
Just like me
And she loves Rakim
Just like me
And she knows every single line from The Breakfast Club
Why does it sound like I’m looking for me?
As you can see
I can get a little wrapped up in who I think you’re supposed to be and
What I’ve been told is a “real man”
But instead - this is my declaration of exactly who I am
In the simplest of terms
The most convenient definitions...
My full name is Joseph Edwin Philip Hernandez-Kolski
I don't read nearly enough books.
I love my DVR way too much
I don’t watch Game of Thrones though because I can’t handle the commitment of another TV
I don't follow soccer
I think Bob Marley is way overplayed
And when I die
If I somehow end up in hell
The soundtrack will be Linkin Park, Bone Thugs n Harmony, Mumford and Sons and Abba.
I can't stand the royal couple. I don't give a shit about Kate or her baby.
I think they’re simply the Kardashians with a li’l bit of purpose
Unsubscribing to people on Facebook is my favorite pastime.
If you’re too sad or too happy, I will unfollow you
You have to be at the exact same level of hope and pessimism as me
I’m surprised by how many pairs of shoes I now own.
And I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a sock that fits shoe sizes 6-12.
I get annoyed by people who don't know their directions.
The ocean is west
Figure the rest out.
I wax my eyebrows
Because my mom once said, “You should wax your eyebrows”
I curl my eyelashes
Because my mom once said, “You should curl your eyelashes,” she curled them, a girl
complimented my eyes and I’ve been doing it ever since
I miss my mom
It’s been five years
And I know it’s now part of my life
Loss like that
Never goes away
You learn how to put it away
I LOVE Snowboarding
It is my white privilege sport of choice
I also love an occasional cigarette
And a Smirnoff ice
Because they make me feel like the bad boy that I never was.
I think dancers who take photos in front of graffiti pieces are silly. Yes, the graffiti may give u
street Cred but I can't see u.
I think Spinach is the most versatile vegetable ever
And no matter how much I love A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Li’l Louie Vega, Phoenix,
Duncan Sheik, Prince, James Brown, Meshell Ndegeocello, Stevie Wonder and Jack White
Van Halen will always Rule!
But I hope you’re down with El Debarge
And the Commodores!
Oh, damn, the Commodores!
I wear my headphones in my car so when I talk to myself people won't think I'm crazy
I know there are three things that will never change in America
Immigrants will keep coming to this country
Gay people will keep being gay
And bacon will always taste awesome
I think the only reason fighting is allowed in hockey is because it's a white dominated sport.
Which is why I want to implement inner city hockey programs
As soon as Blacks and Latinos have hockey sticks
Watch how quickly fighting will get banned
And we can have a real conversation about race in America
And remember Underoos? The commercials would show a li’l boy pretending to be Batman
fighting crime in his underwear? At the age of five, I thought that shit was childish and
immature. And then, one day, I was like, “Fuck it! Let’s have some fun!” And I put on my
superman t-shirt and underwear, tied a towel around my neck and I flew around my house and, to this day, I have never felt more free.
And, yes, you’re right
I should wash my shower curtain more often
And replace my Brita water filter when I’m supposed to
But I’ve got more important shit to do
I don’t have time to post selfies on Instagram
I don’t give a shit how many likes my photos get
And, yes, I’m totally lying
But I’m doing my best to stay focused on what’s important
A clear sky the day after a rainstorm
Early morning exercise that I have to get up for
And the hand that I have to keep putting on my sister’s back
I plan on singing Bill Weathers and the beatles “blackbird” to our children
And when it comes to our wedding?
I hope you love Anita Baker’s “Giving you the best that I’ve got”
Cuz I want that to be our first dance
And I wanna have a late-night all-night dance party
Where we all get unbelievably sweaty to house music
And you better bring your sneakers
Cuz i'll fuck you up on a dance floor
That’s not a threat
It’s a challenge
I want you to step up
Cuz I’m ready
At some point
My ovaries went into overdrive and I am done
I think feminism is the radical notion that women are people
And yes, I read that on a calendar
But I like it
And I’d like to think this is simple
And I’d like to think we’ll do this as a team together and yet somehow
I do get scared cuz
I can’t offer you financial wealth right now
But I am working at cutting my debt
And I am learning how to cook more and eat out less
I’m tired of thinking that I’m not enough
That I’m not a success
There is this voice that wants me to focus on what I do wrong
Instead of what I know I do best
This voice that’s comparing and keeping score
That’s where my anger lives
And I’m not listening to that voice anymore
I’m turning those roars of insecurity
I’m pushing the darkness to the back
Too often it ends up in my lower back
But that’s temporary and I know that
Just as long as you walk on my back
That’s all I ask
And that you stay positive so we can find the silver lining in every cloud
And as long as I’m with you
You'll never have to open another door again
You’ll have to get used to having a new best friend
You will always feel loved
I give the best damn hugs
And you'll have to get used to doing things with only one hand cuz I'm always gonna be holding
That’s pretty much everything about me
Now I’m dying to hear
What’s your story?
I tell myself
You shouldn’t be dating right now anyway
You’ve got too much to do
You can’t go out right now
You can’t deal with people asking personal questions like
How are you?
They might see the scotch tape that holds your smile in place
It’s good that you’re free on a Saturday night
Right now you have time to write
Are you on Tinder swiping right??
I don’t need a woman
It’s a match!
She writes hi!
I write “Hey / smiley face”
Back and forth
Back and forth
Back and forth
A place is chosen nearby
And now I’m sitting in front of this woman
Who tells the bartender
Kettle & tonic with a wedge of lime
Not a slice
And I hope you know the difference.
Sorry I’m running late
So…it’s been a rough day
I joined instagram today
And somebody already has my name
So I had to add a “1” to my name
But now none of my friends can find me
And they keep tagging me in photos
But they’re actually tagging her
It’s been such an ordeal
How are you?
Don’t be afraid
I’m not afraid
Then tell me the most revealing thing you can
The first thing that comes to your mind
Tell me something real
Don’t do it, Joe
She doesn’t deserve to know
Oh what the hell
Real is the quiet of my mom’s hospital room
The quiet that is only broken by her heart monitor and the machine that keeps feeding her the
She breathes through her mouth
In a deep sleep
Her hand so warm
Resting against my cheek
Her wrinkled skin and blue veins
Covered in my tears
I tell her
It’s okay mom
We’re gonna be fine
You can go now
I love you
The next morning
10 degrees colder
Just a shell
Her mouth so open so wide like
Her spirit needed as much space as it could get to get out
That little short brunette firecracker at 5 foot 1
Who everyone loved
The mickey to my rocky
Who always pushed me back out into the center of the ring
Told me I could do anything
The woman who told an entire Chicago movie theater
You can’t leave yet
My son was in this movie!
And then made them all applaud my EMT #2 credit
Even though you saw my face for less than a second
And what do I do now?
Return to LA?
So I can go on web shows
Where we discuss Christmas sweaters of celebrities?
So I keep thinking
I have to get my shit together
I don’t have time to date!
I’m at an age where the stakes is high
Families are getting built all around me like tract homes
And dates have become financial assessment interviews
But then I tell myself you’ve gotta get out!
I just wanna let loose for once in my life!
Not think about, “Well, Joe, is this what a gentleman would do?”
I want you to get me drunk on real fruity drinks, Tinder lady
Make fun of the fact that I’m a big lightweight
I wanna laugh
I want to go back to your place
I want you to dig deep into my back
Bite your neck
Just for one moment
And I hope this doesn’t sound rude
But I don’t think I like you
I can already tell
And you’re probably a sweet woman
And I’m broken as well but
I don’t see you as marriage material
For someone else sure
A man who loves instagram and lime wedges
But not for me
You’re half my age
How far did we think this was gonna go anyway?
And you’re tall
Not that I’d necessarily rule it out
I tend to date short brunettes
In other words
I tend to date my mom
I plan on naming my first born son Oedipus
So maybe I should just go…
Unless you’re still interested
Cuz I’m totally still down
She says no
I’m looking for something real
And I understand
I thank her for meeting me
I pay the bill
I get in my car
My phone dings
Someone just tweeted about me
Just went on a tinder date with @pochojoe. Couldn’t stop talking about himself. #SoLA.
So I retweeted it.
This is good
I like being by myself
I don’t need anyone else
Laundry’s been folded
I have no plans tonight
Desk is cleared
I am ready to write
Let’s just check status updates real quick
That’s a cute pic of Alicia and her kids
Throw back Thursday
Oh my god
Look at Alfie's hair
Look at my buddy who just booked a pilot
Thank god I’m not the jealous type
Who is this young lady with Mike?
Look who I bumped into downtown?
I will look into her
We have only two mutual friends
Mike and his wife Jess
That’s great I love Mike and Jess!
And she likes The Walking Dead
And she likes A Tribe Called Quest
And she likes Blade Runner
This could be it!
She could be the one!
I should send Mike a message right now
Tell him to introduce us
I’m so ready for Mike and Jess to be our best friends!
And we can all go to the Farmer’s Market together!
She’ll wear a cute li’l sun dress
And I’ll wear that fedora I don’t have the courage to wear alone
And who’s this?
Look she has a cute puppy
Oh my god
I’m so ready to take Veggie for walks!
What if this woman and I are meant to be?
But that’s all that I can see
The rest of her shit is blocked
Mike posted her handle
@kat de groot
Let’s check out her Instagram
Oh she is cute
She doesn’t look too tall
So I won’t feel insecure when she wears heels
And she looks short enough
That she’ll fit
That is a beautiful sunset pic
My girl is so artistic!
And who’s this?
There it is
Taking a nap
With their cat on his chest
And Veggie on his lap
Looking straight out of a goddamn Gap ad
“Got home and found these three rascals asleep”
#okay I get it you have a boyfriend
And here’s another pic
Of him in an apron in the kitchen
“Look what my boo is makin
Chocolate covered bacon!”
Are you serious, Mr. Boyfriend??
Let me gues
Let me guess
I bet you have a job in marketing
And a loft downtown
And you drive Ms. Girlfriend around
In your convertible jeep
And she curls up on your arm
And no matter how windy it gets
Your hair always looks perfect
You never shave
You volunteer at a dog rescue on weekends
You do jiu jitsu with Ryan Gosling
Who comes over for dinner
And he flirts with Ms. Girlfriend
But you never get jealous, do you?
Which is why
After Ryan leaves
You cuddle up on the couch
And Ms. Girlfriend says
You’re so awesome
Then you take out a piece of jewelry that you handmade on your volunteer trip to Costa Rica
with Habitat for Humanity
Mr. So Much Better Than Me
Mr. Life is just so easy
Mr. I’m so perfect and so damn happy!!
What’s going on, Joe?
What are you doing?
This is INSANE…
I don’t have time for a relationship now anyway
Too bad too
@kat de groot
#things were looking up for you
I guess we’ll never know now
But we had our moment, didn’t we?
I hope you don’t mind
But I’m closing that window
Command Q – oh – command Q
It’s you who I truly love
You you you close these windows to these curated artificial lives
Thank god I’m not the jealous type.
When I meet my future wife
It’s gonna be just like Dirty Dancing
The tough yet sensitive bad boy who knows how to dance
I walk in
I take her hand
We feel our hearts beat as one
And we know
So when my last girlfriend came into my life
And it didn’t feel like that
I let her go
She’s not right for me!
She’s not my baby!
And my status switches quick!
I start clicking “like” on cute girls pics!
I am single once again!
So why can’t I get this woman out of my head?
Wait, which movie am I in again?
Cuz it feels like I’m the detective
At the end of Usual Suspects
And I’m putting the pieces together about my ex
The chemistry when we first met
How we perfectly danced together while we slept
We melted easily into each other’s lives
Ending each and every night
Watching “The Daily Show”
We were so close
And somehow like that
I let her go
What if the one who I’ve been looking for
Has been sleeping next to me all this time
And I’m just too blind to see it?
Oh my god
I just broke up with Keyser Soze
So I go outside
And all of a sudden
I’m Harry ready for his Sally
Running through New York City streets
So I can say
I love the way you can’t wake up in the morning even with five alarms set
I love the way you eat healthy all day then devour a gallon of ice cream at midnight
I love the way your clean clothes sit in a pile for days
I love the way your finger caresses the inside of my palm while we quietly watch a play
Let’s take this chance
Let’s jump off this cliff together
Like we’re Butch and Sundance
But as I reach for her hand
She’s holding the leads
Now I’m in Glengarry Glenn Ross
And she’s demanding the ABC’s
Always Be Closing, Joe!
Step up! Be a man!
Have you figured it out yet?
What is your five-year plan?
I don’t know
I’m really confused
Cuz now we’re standing in a courtroom
And you’re Tom Cruise
And you demand
“I want the truth!”
And I’m like
I can’t handle the truth!
I don’t know if I love you
I know I LOVE you
But I don’t know if I love you because I love you
Or because I love the way you love me
I just don’t see myself loving you enough
And I’m scared we’ll be sitting in the back of the bus
And you’ll be in your wedding dress
And I’ll be Dustin Hoffman
Did I do the right thing?
And why is Simon and Garfunkel playing?
And why is Al Pacino from Godfather 3 screaming in my head
You were out and she pulled you back in!
So now I sit here alone
Praying that somehow your ringtone will emerge from my phone
Cuz at times it feels like I’m Noah in The Notebook
Ready to love you no matter what you say or what you do
But you’re Sarah Marshall
You’d rather hang out with that rich British dude
Who plays the guitar
Cause they always play the guitar
But I know he loves you
You guys seem to be a much better fit
You both seem so happy in all of your profile pics
It’s Facebook official
Something that I was scared to do
Maybe it wasn’t that you weren’t right for me
Maybe I’m not right for you
And that’s okay
At least we’re friends again or at least you accepted my request
I wish you the best
Cuz I’ve gotta believe that there’s still someone waiting for me
To raise a boombox over my head
To serenade her with a full marching band
To play her in a game of 1-on-1 double or nothing
I’m gonna see her across a crowded high school gymnasium
Filled with dancing rival gang members
I will take her hand
We will dance
And we will know
Tony had Maria
Harry had Sally
Noah had Allie
Woody had Buzz
And I’m gonna have you
And sometimes it’s gonna be less Love, Actually
And more like Platoon
We’re gonna have those awful days
When Darth Vader is lowering me into carbonite
And you’re gonna say “I love you”
And I will say
Nobody puts baby in the corner.
Joe then dances like he’s in Dirty Dancing, ending with picking up an imaginary girl over his