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