Poem(?): Dos Mundos…Two Worlds

IMG_0253

 

Dos Mundos…Two Worlds

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Mama ties back my hair.

Tu eres muy linda, Mija, she says.

You are very pretty, my daughter.

I hear it both ways, bilingual.

Best of both worlds, Abuela might say.

But we left Abuela in Mexico long ago.

 

Mama leaves me at the school gate.

She tugs my ponytail, smiling.

No tengas miedo, she says.

Do not be afraid…and I will try.

My mother speaks three languages.

Love is a language, too.

 

How do you say school in Spanish?

The girl asks me with a friendly smile.

Escuela, I tell the girl, not afraid.

Cool, she says. Want to play?

We play tag and I am happy.

Mama was right—there is nothing to fear.

 

I am brave all day. I am not afraid

I win the spelling bee, all in English.

My teachers are all American.

I can speak to them and I’m not afraid.

I want to tell Mama about my day.

I wait after school, but she doesn’t come.

 

My neighbor comes and kneels beside me.

She’s American, she has two teenage sons.

She doesn’t speak Spanish, but she speaks love.

Her voice breaks when she tells me they took Mama.

I know what she’s saying, even when I stop hearing.

I’m not me anymore. They took me, too.

 

She makes space for me in her home.

They are kind, but I know I have no place.

I used to have two worlds, now I have none.

No country, no place for me, no mama.

One of the lost generation without a home.

Y ahora, tengo miedo. And now I am afraid.

Poem: Shards of Lost Justice

united states of america flag

Photo by Gerritt Tisdale on Pexels.com

Shards of Lost Justice

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

She trembles before the white man, a tiny dark hand clutched in hers.

“This is my child,” she says, defiant before him. “I’m keeping her.”

But the white man tears the child away and glares at the black woman.

“Send her back,” he says, and white hands pull mother away from child.

 

The brown woman struggles in the clutch of the ICE men.

Her daughter weeps as she watches them take her away.

“Let her stay,” pleads her husband. “It was only a traffic ticket.”

But the man with the badge shakes his head. “Send her back,” he says.

 

The little girl stands alone before the judge, no idea where her parents are.

“They brought me here,” she whispers. “I don’t know where my home is.”

“She was separated from her parents,” her lawyer says. “This is not the American way.”

The judge shakes his head. “The law is clear. Send her back.”

 

The brown woman is different. She is slight but strong, not easily vanquished.

An American citizen, a Congresswoman, a representative, she speaks out.

He doesn’t like what she says, her differences frighten him, so he bullies and brags.

“She doesn’t love America like me,” he tells the mob. “Send her back,” they chant.

A Perfect Union: Hang Together—or Separately?

IMG_5233“It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.” —Benjamin Franklin, 1777

It was indeed a high ideal, worthy of striving for: a country where all men were considered created equal. But, as many point out, even those who dreamed it up didn’t really understand what it entailed.

Yet still, America won her independence from Great Britain and set off on her quest. To welcome the immigrants, whether they be poor or wealthy, hungry or replete. To truly endeavor to deliver liberty and justice for all.

There was a learning curve, of course. There had to be for a nation that enslaved people of color, that treated women as property, that ignored or even condemned those with a different nature (read “with a different sexual preference”). Our nation was nearly a century old when we fought each other over the right to own humans of a different color. And women were not given the right to vote for another fifty to sixty years. A steep learning curve we still climb.

And still we strive. Our Constitution guides us. We want to answer its charge and form a perfect Union of our states. But as the number of states has grown, as more and more immigrants have made their homes here, we have faced a growing quandary. Who is right and who is wrong when so many want such different things? How can we expect a farmer of Hispanic descent to want the same things as a lawyer of white European descent or a businessman whose grandparents moved here from the Middle East?

The very nature of our union of states makes our unified mission ever more difficult. What is easy for the cosmopolitan to accept goes against the very grain of the rural. Add in religious beliefs and splits deepen to crevasses.

And still, until recently, I thought we might someday achieve our perfect union. Until the day our president issued a disturbing statement that women of color who had been duly elected to represent their constituents should “go back to where they came from.”

In that moment, we went from George Washington chopping down a cherry tree to Donald Trump taking an axe to the founding principles of our country. It’s a deep crevasse to fall into, and now we stand divided on either side, teetering on the decision of whether to follow him in or not.

Meanwhile, the enemies of the long-lasting American experiment watch for the opportunity to push us all in. A divided America is much easier to defeat than a “perfect Union”. I like to think that Benjamin Franklin foresaw these circumstances from the beginning. Certainly, when he looked at his fellow signers and co-conspirators and said, “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” he voiced the fear they all felt. But those words may apply now, too. If our nation proves divisible after all, we will all be left hanging—by our fingertips on the edge of a chasm.

Happy 4th: Losing focus and the American flag

C4D9F398-D1BB-4C11-85FC-1B649C7C04BF

It’s a quandary for me right now. I love the American flag. I want to feel proud of my country and celebrate what is wonderful about it. But everything is out of focus. I can’t fix on any one thing that makes us special. We’ve drifted so far from what our founding fathers wanted us to be, but I think it’s all a result of a series of mistakes.

Maybe the first mistake was in ever thinking that the wounds a civil war inflicts upon a nation can ever be fixed. Or maybe it was in believing that such a huge expanse of such varied terrain—which, by nature, requires differences in the people who seek to live there—could ever be united in one cause. But I believe the mistake came when white men first set foot on this land, which already belonged to someone else.

You can’t own what’s not for sale. You can steal it, but you’ll never really be the owner.

Think about that the next time you’re feeling particularly possessive of all your survey, whether it’s the view from a penthouse, the beachfront, or just your neatly mown front lawn. It’s all stolen. Or maybe just borrowed.

It’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to forget and whitewash and remember only what we wish. The big picture is made up of many small pictures, after all. But every so often, it’s useful to study those small pictures and remember, divided as we might all be, we are all, at best, borrowers—at worst, thieves.

And when we pledge allegiance to our flag, we’re promising to continue the tradition.

Poem: “What Good Will It Do?”

In today’s news, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist, disappeared after entering the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. It is now reported that he was killed for the stories he routinely wrote criticizing his home country’s government. When it was proposed to President Donald Trump that the United States should cease selling weapons to the Saudi Arabian government, the leader of the free world responded, “What good will that do us?”

My answer? We would no longer be accepting blood money from a repressive regime. We would no longer be upholding a bully. We would no longer be endorsing their human rights violations. 

We would no longer be guilty by association. 

What Good Will It Do?

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

What good will it do?

Sticking your neck out,

Standing up to a bully,

Being courageous.

What good does it do me?

If I refuse to befriend the “strong”

That will make me weak.

 

What good will it do?

Who says I have to help

When others are down?

Got my own life to live.

What benefit is there?

Right and wrong don’t mean

A thing when you’re on top.

 

It’ll do me no good

To give you a handout.

Sure it’s tough all over.

Get a grip on yourself.

There’s nothing in it for me.

Helping others is just a game

Invented by bleeding hearts.

 

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.” –President John F. Kennedy

 

 

Poem: Alternative Anthem

united states of america flag

Photo by Gerritt Tisdale on Pexels.com

Alternative Anthem

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Oh say, can’t you see

In the day’s last blue light

That our country has bailed

And the darkness is looming?

 

What good are stripes and little stars

When we don’t do what’s right?

And our laws are all botched,

By our government’s scheming?

 

And the lies that we’re told

Well, they’re really getting old!

And there’s proof of what’s right

But we must stand up bold.

 

Oh say, can’t you help me raise a flag we can praise—

O’er a land of truly free and a home to all the brave?

“But”: A Poem for Independence

Happy birthday, America. You’re 241 years old. Congratulations.

You’re still an infant on the world stage. An infant with a very big gun, but an infant still.

Maybe that’s why we’ve allowed you to get to this state. Mass deportations, guns in every pocket, a tyrannical toddler in charge, squabbling lawmakers unwilling to compromise, and worst of all, your beautiful land pockmarked and disfigured, air polluted and waters spoiled by avarice.

But.

But you’re a lovely idea, a perfect ideal to work toward. We’ve only taken a moment to tend to our worst selves. We’ll get back to the job eventually. We’ll return to the original intent of our forefathers. I believe that.

And I love you.

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” — James Baldwin

But

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Lady Liberty holds a tablet and a torch—

The law of freedom, the light of hope.

 

But what does it mean when guns fill the street?

When drugs are offered but food is not?

Fear is the only law. There is no defense.

 

What happened to our freedom?

 

Some fight still for their most basic rights,

But the Bible of an intolerant God quashes them.

Your love is wrong. Your life is less.

 

Where is the light of hope?

 

It shines still, cutting a swath through darkness.

Land of plenty, home of brave, promises made—

 

But will they be honored?