Sometimes I Think I'm America's Mistake

When my father stepped off the plane twenty years ago and found his way to

The Bronx where his brothers were waiting for him,

It was to live every day plagued by stories of his

Roommates being followed home by wickedly-grinning, knife-brandishing men

That took pleasure in wounding the skin of my uncle who worked

For seven dollars a day, and then sent it all home to his mother.

And I know this isn’t what he wanted for me.

I even know, sometimes, that it’s not what he wanted for himself.

Didn’t want to open a bank account, become a citizen of the internet,

Watch as his labor was digitized and filed away on a supercomputer

And used to calculate the distance from here to the moon.

 

Last month my taxes contributed to Nike’s two billion dollars in

Government subsidies, my money,

Taken from my pocket and used to make sneakers more expensive than my

Last paycheck.

 

Sometimes I think I’m America’s mistake,

A child of the New Generation,

Born to emphasize the difference between affect and effect,

But never affect the way change is effected,

And I want, so desperately to be a warrior of my time

But I’ve only been taught to reaffirm the rules of grammar and

Sip coffee in silence as the world turns around me.

 

Sometimes all I want to do is cry.

 

It’s easy to blame America for your mistakes,

And it’s easy to say you shouldn’t blame America for your mistakes,

And I think once I find the dividing line, the fence, the border between the two,

I’ll understand what it means to be American.

I’ll know what it means to salute the flag and sing the

Pledge of Allegiance with my head held high and my hand placed

Proudly over my heart.

 

I hope I never find that line.

 

In school we’re taught A is for Apple and B is for Blue and C is for

Candy, sickly sweet and only sold out of the backs of white vans in the dead of night.

D is for death, which I still don’t understand,

And E is for easy, something that I, as a woman, must know the meaning of.

In school we’re taught to build city halls and towering skyscrapers

Out of wooden blocks, but I’m seventeen and still don’t know where my last name comes from.

In school, I’m ten, and my teacher is making fun of the spanish music I grew up listening to,

The kind with the classical guitar intro that my father can imitate perfectly,

The kind that made me smile until I was ten and became background noise when I was eleven.

 

In school, I built bridges out of cardboard boxes.

 

My father didn’t come here to be an environmental engineer.

My father didn’t come here to beg me to major in astronomy because he wishes he’d done

That instead.

I don’t know why my father came here.

When I ask, he tells me it was for the job opportunities - there’s nothing back home -

But I see it in his eyes when he goes home to the house in Ecuador he’s spent

19 years having built.

I see it in his eyes when we finally have a conversation for the first time all week,

Usually on a Saturday,

Because we’re both too busy during the week to take a moment to breathe and say,

In simple english, “Hi. How are you. Hope you’re doing well.”

 

Sometimes, it’s too easy to blame America for my mistakes,

But sometimes, America deserves it.

I’ll never know why people are the way they are, and I’ll spend a lifetime wondering,

But I know why I am the way I am,

And sometimes all I can do is hold onto that before it’s taken from me
Like the taxes from my paycheck

That are still paying Nike to feed the world the sick, twisted lie that it’s as easy as breathing to

Just do it.

 

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care,

Because it’d be easy as rain to comply with complacency and

Maybe then, I’d be able to sit back and watch them destroy themselves

And I wouldn’t have to be a part of it.

 

I’m told we revolt at dawn, but I’m too busy fielding calls from people who want to know

If I’m going, who won’t go if I’m not, who won’t go unless there’s a crowd they can

Disappear into.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care, because if I didn’t I could stop being afraid of a world

Where caring is dangerous and sugar pills are the only thing on the

Dining hall menu.

I’m told we revolt at dawn, and when I show up, the sun is barely rising and I lift my head

To the sky and breathe in the scent of rebellion, finally, because it’s about time.

 

We are all immigrants.

We are all immigrants.

We are all immigrants.

 

Except, apparently, some of us.

 

I’m five years old and get to sleep in on the second Monday in October and I’m told

It’s a celebration of when God sailed across the ocean and created the forests

Only five hundred years ago.

And I buy it, of course I do, because I’m five years old and though God already doesn’t exist,

I don’t have any other explanation for why the forests are what they are, or

How I got here, of all places. America.

And I don’t know why I can’t run across the country and back again because I don’t have

A single clue about the concept of space, or time, and then,

When I think about it, how dare they tell me America was found when I’m too young to

Challenge them on it.

 

We can plan to revolt at dawn, but the police will already be there at midnight,

Waiting for us, and if we can’t walk into the path of resistance and keep going,

We might as well not even try.

 

My T.V. once told me there’s a magic trick for everything, and apparently,

Breaking out of handcuffs was one of them.

At this point, that might be our best option.

 

But you can’t major in magic, and breaking out of handcuffs won’t pay the bills.

I don’t have all the answers, and I know that kneeling during the national anthem will

Cause so much White Male Outrage there’ll be headlines for days,

But it’s something.

I care about a lot of things, but staying silent isn’t one of them.

 

If I’m America’s mistake, then so is my father, and so is the revolution at dawn,

And so is Columbus day.

All I know is I’m seventeen and I still don’t know what comes after

“And to the republic, for which it stands,”

And I hope one day I won’t be criticized for failing to memorize patriotic rhetoric.

 

We are all immigrants.

We are all immigrants.

Remember, we revolt at dawn.

This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My country
Our world

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