The Sunday Poem: Cathy Arellano... End of an Affair May 14, 2010

On a most basic level, the new Arizona laws are not about immigration: they are about being Mexican. Or being a dark-skinned American. Somehow popular history assumes the former Europeans among us filled out the proper papers at Ellis Island. We tend to forget the rest of the story.

A new line seems to have been drawn in the sand. It is both political and deeply emotional. And, as Cathy Arellano says,
This is our border/ you might say/ between our past and our future.

End of an Affair, May 14, 2010

Good-bye United States
It’s clear you don’t want me
Today the mayor of Albuquerque
Proclaimed sanctuary for ICE officials
In the city’s jails
Good-bye U.S.
Arizona’s cancer is spreading internally
First that sheriff gets to play like he’s a federale
then we gotta show papers for being brown
Now we can’t teach our young people our history
And you know if you don’t know where you come from
You don’t know where you’re going
Isn’t that what you always told me?
It’s been ovah since before Arizonah
Yes, U.S., I knew you embraced
That Colorado politician full of hate
You thought I didn’t hear you cheering him on
While you watched FOX news?
U.S., I knew it was over
When Nevada’s economy tanked
and you went there
told all the “foreigners” to go home
Oh, U.S., truth is
I knew it was over
Back in Cali
that love—lust?—cradle on the coast
you wanna send my children
who’ve grown up there
to places they’ve never been
or don’t remember
I should’ve known years ago
When I found the numbers
187, 209
I knew there were more
The writing was on the wall
I just didn’t want to read it
Basta Ya! No Más!
I know you don’t like it when I speak Mexican
You studied in Spain
“Where their Spanish sounds like French or Italian”
Where they look French or Italian
I’m tired of having a second class accent
In your ears, U.S.
Yes, mi amor, it’s over
Don’t try to talk me out of it
I’m not going to change my mind
I see it in your eyes
you know it too
don’t pretend
Since it’s over
Since we’re done
Through with each other
I’m not going to
Make your children avena con canela in the morning
Blow on mugs of chocolate
Walk them to the neighborhood school
Take the baby to the park
Come home
Bathe the baby
Throw some laundry in the wash
Go pick up the big ones
Teach them Spanish
Well, my Spanish
Help you prepare dinner
Clean up
I’m not going to do it
Don’t look so sad
Just cuz you wanted to break up with me first
Don’t look so surprised
That I’m standing up for myself, cabrón
Okay, of course, you can look at me any way you want (you always have)
They’re your eyes
I’ve spoken to my family
The ones who build the houses
Tend the yards
Clean the pools
Just so you know
My brothers told our cousins
The ones who pick all that delicious produce in the fields
the ones who work in the slaughter houses
And you know I talk to my sisters every day
They’re waiting at their sewing machines
Our aunts and uncles are standing by their vacuum cleaners
And shampooers on the office floors
My nieces and nephews have stopped asking,
You want fries with that?
Our barbers, hairdressers, and stylists
Are holding combs, clippers, curling irons, and blowdryers
Our teachers are at mid-word at the chalkboard
Our lawyers are at mid-sentence in the courtroom
our small business owners have fingers on cash register keys
Yes, they’re waiting
Why the long face?
Lump it or leave it
That didn’t come from me
This is our border
you might say
Between our past and our future
No one can say we didn’t try, U.S.
We almost made it to our 250th silver anniversary
I know, I know
Our history goes back more than 500 years
But you don’t want me
Going over those first 250
If I had focused on those first 250
We would’ve never made it this far
Don’t worry, U.S.,
We won’t make you swim home
We don’t hold you to the same standards
We hold for ourselves
Our shipbuilders
Crafted a fleet
That will carry you
your funny hats
ruffled shirts
black shoes with big, brass buckles
your guns
your diseases
our taquería workers
have wrapped all your stuff
up in a huge tortilla
so you have a snack for your journey
U.S., look on the bright side
They got democracy and religious freedom over there now
the two things you came here for
Consider yourselves: Mission accomplished!
Come on, U.S., let’s not part on bad terms.
Tell your people we said hello.
And another thing,
Before you go
You should know that
we learned something from you:
In the future
If you ever want to get together
Call first

Views: 142

Comment by vinceinburque on July 4, 2010 at 2:12pm
Thank you!
Comment by JeSais on July 4, 2010 at 2:40pm
Comment by Elaine Schwartz on July 4, 2010 at 2:51pm
Comment by Margaret Randall on July 4, 2010 at 4:51pm
Way to go, Kathy! Great coming back to town to find this great poem.
Comment by bg on July 4, 2010 at 5:39pm
A big old shiner for Independence Day, US don't like that reflection, won't look itself in the mirror.

Or so we'd like to think. Huh. Ugly. Is what it is.

Well done.
Comment by Georgia Santa-Maria on July 5, 2010 at 1:25am
Love this! So fine, so funny and to the point. Love the huge tortilla line--I really liked this when you read it awhile back at Black Market Goods--have thought of it several times since, (sign of a really good poem, it stays with you!) Thanks.
Comment by Poet Oishi on July 6, 2010 at 10:57am
Sorry I missed this on Sunday. You said everything. Perfectly.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on July 13, 2010 at 9:47am
Yes, you did it!!! Thx for sending to Jon. Now I'll read it again and have a place to find it. muchas gracias, amiga


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