#NationalPoetryMonth 15/30

The children are dead already. We are killing them,
that is what America should be saying;
on TV, in the streets, in offices, should be saying,
“We aren’t giving the children a chance to live.”

Mexicans are taking our jobs, they say instead.
What they really say is, let them die,
and the children too.

— from “So Mexicans are Taking Jobs from Americans”

Today’s read: Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems by Jimmy Santiago Baca – New Directions Publishing – 1990

The last time I read this collection was in 2010 during the activism protesting Arizona’s SB 1070.

‘Senate Bill 1070 was passed by the (Arizona) Legislature and signed into law by (Gov) Brewer in April. It made it a state crime to be in the country illegally and stated that an officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person’s legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.’

There was incredible fear that this law would erase any brown person’s civil rights in Arizona. To date, the law still stands. There have been challenges and interpretations but it stands.

I am still shaken by how this poem predicated SB1070 and then summarized the 45th President’s entire campaign statement.

Even on TV, an asthmatic leader
crawls turtle heavy, leaning on an assistant,
and from a nest of wrinkles on his face,
a tongue paddles through flashing waves
of lightbulbs, of cameramen, rasping
“They’re taking our jobs away.”

The most disturbing part is how the poem’s last stanza warned about the persecution that would come to the children of Mexican immigrants. It’s a line so jarring that I couldn’t shake it after I initially read it.

It was in August 2001. A few weeks later, the Twin Towers would fall and New York would go in lock down. Everything felt like a disaster movie and that we had experienced the lowest point in the nation’s history. Back then, there was still toilet paper and you could walk the Bronx in quiet. We didn’t think this would happen again or that it could feel worse. We didn’t.

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