929. Immigrants

We come from the land of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow
The hammer of the gods
W’ell drive our ships to new lands
To fight the horde, and sing and cry
Valhalla, I am coming!

So Zepp and their Immigrant Song. They were seriously into mythology and I don’t think this song is talking so much about the Vikings discovering America as it is just probably a drug trip the boys got on and started reading Norse Mythology. Valhalla isn’t the far shores of the land of plenty but rather a hallway where Norse Soldiers would go when they were killed in combat, you know plundering far lands and what not that Vikings did. If you want to know more about it click on the pic below or the linked words under it.

Valhalla

Back to Immigrants. It’s weird that four or five years ago, Immigration and how it’s handled has been a issue but never from what I recall been identified as a national crisis. I’m not sure that too many folks, unless maybe if you lived along the Southern border and in those border states, really thought it was a huge issue that needed emergency attention. But it became something to fear, or at least what we were told to fear, and I think the issue of immigration came to the forefront of a national conversation and fear was drummed up about the latest hordes heading up from central america and a group of 30 people or so got followed on the news like it was something great to fear. It just seems like madness to me. Here’s what immigration & immigrants mean to me:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest- to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

So this closing our doors on all immigrants and making closing our borders a national top priority seems to be so antithetical to what America is all about. Besides 1/16th of me that is Native American…the other 15/16th of me identifies with immigrants that came here to America. Less than 1% of the population can really lay claim to being American and when we say the Vikings discovered America or Christopher Columbus, I can imagine the natives saying… uhhhmmm yeah right. Ya’ll didn’t have to come hear to discover it and then create that whole thing about Manifest Destiny, we knew this place was here all along. How can you discover a place people already knew about? This is not meant to be political but something that was weighing on my mind as I took the pups for a walk tonight listening to this podcast, When Poets Decide Who Counts in 2020, Code Switch.

Art Spiegelman’s “A Warm Welcome,” 2015. Credit.

Every 10 years, they want to count us. Race doesn’t matter.

We are colorblind…. colorblind? Race doesn’t matter? These are usually words clung to, not by people in the minority, they are words, we say to make it better, to make us feel better, let’s face it…in America, white people say things like race doesn’t matter. We are colorblind.

Ask the ghost of a person that gets accidentally shot or intentionally shot, from racial profiling, or hate crimes, and you better damn sure believe it matters, race. It was life and death for them. It never has been that for me.

Boxes to check, we have boxes to check, early on I checked boxes….white, Caucasian?… and had to ask someone who would know, Mom, Dad.

What are we? What box do we check?

But then years later I learned of a lady, born on the rez, she has a lot of greats in front of her name and also grandmother.

What are we? What box do we check?

1/16th means you can become a rights-bearing member of the tribe, Chickasaw. What does that mean for me now? What am I now? What box do I check? Now?

15/16th of me got here from a far away shore, escaping the Irish Potato Famine, or maybe seeking out religious freedom from England, or maybe raiding these shores in long boats with fuzzy helmets of horns? Does it matter? 15/16th of me is just like the rest of you.

What are we? What box do we check?

So now, knowing what I know now, I can expect the white man to show up…. and claim 1/16th of my land, kick 1/16th of my ass off to the rez, discover shit-tons of oil reserves under 1/16th of what used to be my home. But fuck it… I’m building a fucking casino on 1/16th of what I have left and taking 15/16th of my white man’s money back!!!

What are we? What box do we check?

16/16th is human just like the rest of ya’ll. The world over. It gets ridiculous when we try to define…

What are we? What box do we check?

Theater of the absurd. Race. Boxes. Fuck it.

Immigration and Immigrants

Now for some real poetry, the experience of the other…the modern day immigrant in America.

what was said at the bus stop:

lately has been a long time

says the girl from Pakistan, Lahore to be specific
on the bus stop when the white man
asks her next where she’s from & then
says oh, you from Lahore?
it’s pretty bad over there.

                 lately has been a long time
she says & we look at each other & the look says
yes, i too wish this white dude would stop
asking us about where we from, all these questions
derived from skin
but on the other side of that side eye
is maybe a hand where hands do no good
a look to say, yes, i know lately has been
a long time for your people too
& i’m sorry the world is so good at making
us feel like we have to fight for space
to fight for our lives

that might be me projecting but let me project
i want to say something & this
is the only way i can get in
even half good

solidarity is a word, a lot of people say it
i’m not sure what it means in the flesh
i know i love & have cried for my friends
their browns a different brown than mine
that i have danced their dances when taught
& tasted how their mothers use rice
different than mine. i know sometimes
i can’t see beyond my own pain, pass
but black & white, that bullets
love any flesh. i don’t know how to write this poem
i want to say something about all of us
without speaking for all of us, i want to
say i know it’s foolish to compare.

(what advice do the drowned have for the burned?
what gossip is there between the hung & the buried?)

& i want to reach across that great distance
that is sometimes an ocean & sometimes just a few inches
& say, look. your people, my people, all that has happened
to us & still make love under rusted moons, still pull
children from the mothers & name them,
still we teach them to dance, & your pain is not mine
& is no less, & i pray to my god that your god
blesses you with mercy, & i have tasted your food & understand
how it is a good home, & i don’t know your language
but i understand your songs, & i cried when they came
for your uncles, & i wanted revenge when you buried your niece
& i want the world to burn in child’s memory
& i have stood by you in the soft shawl of morning
& still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still, somehow, we breathe.

Danez Smith, what was said at the bus stop.

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