Poems to make you appreciate immigrants more this July 4

Poems to make you appreciate immigrants more this July 4


Since I express myself best through poetry, here are some poems by immigrants that shed light on the immigrant experience and continued struggles they often face. 

We’re starting off with an excerpt from Shajila Patel’s Migritude, a 90-minute spoken-word piece that depicts the journeys of migrant women from East Asia and India.

Listen

my father speaks Urdu,

language of dancing peacocks,

rosewater fountains-

even its curses are beautiful.

He speaks hindi,

suave and melodic,

earthy Punjabi,

salty-rich as saag paneer,

coastal Swahili laced with Arabic.

he speaks Gujarati,

solid ancestral pride.

Five languages,

five different worlds.

Yet English

shrinks

him

down

before white men

This poem by nayyirah waheedsalt, sums up the immigrant experience in just a few words.

you broke the ocean in

half to be here.

only to meet nothing that wants you.

— immigrant

Things We Carry on the Sea

by Wang Ping (1957)

We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother

We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts

We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats

We carry scars from proxy wars of greed

We carry carnage of mining, droughts, floods, genocides

We carry dust of our families and neighbors incinerated in mushroom clouds

We carry our islands sinking under the sea

We carry our hands, feet, bones, hearts and best minds for a new life

We carry diplomas: medicine, engineer, nurse, education, math, poetry, even if they mean nothing to the other shore

We carry railroads, plantations, laundromats, bodegas, taco trucks, farms, factories, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, temples…built on our ancestors’ backs

We carry old homes along the spine, new dreams in our chests

We carry yesterday, today and tomorrow

We’re orphans of the wars forced upon us

We’re refugees of the sea rising from industrial wastes

And we carry our mother tongues
(ai)حب  (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love
平安 (ping’an), سلام ( salaam), shalom, paz, peace
希望 (xi’wang), أمل (’amal), hofenung, esperanza, hope, hope, hope

As we drift…in our rubber boats…from shore…to shore…to shore…

Citizenship

By Javier Zamora

it was clear they were hungry
with their carts empty the clothes inside their empty hands

they were hungry because their hands
were empty their hands in trashcans

the trashcans on the street
the asphalt street on the red dirt the dirt taxpayers pay for

up to that invisible line visible thick white paint
visible booths visible with the fence starting from the booths

booth road booth road booth road office building then the fence
fence fence fence

it started from a corner with an iron pole
always an iron pole at the beginning

those men those women could walk between booths
say hi to white or brown officers no problem

the problem I think were carts belts jackets
we didn’t have any

or maybe not the problem
our skin sunburned all of us spoke Spanish

we didn’t know how they had ended up that way
on that side

we didn’t know how we had ended up here
we didn’t know but we understood why they walk

Things That Shine in the Night

By Rigoberto Gonzalez

Fulgencio’s silver crown—when he snores
the moon, coin of Judas, glaring
at the smaller metals we call stars
my buckle
the tips of my boots
the stones in my kidneys
an earring
a tear on the cheek
the forked paths of a zipper
the blade of the pocketknife triggering open
the blade of the pocketknife seducing the orange
the blade of the pocketknife salivating
the blade of the pocketknife
the word México
the word migra

 Why Whales are Back in New York City

By Rajiv Mohabir

After a century, humpbacks migrate
again to Queens. They left
due to sewage and white froth

banking the shores from polychlorinated-
biphenyl-dumping into the Hudson
and winnowing menhaden schools.

But now grace, dark bodies of song
return. Go to the seaside—

Hold your breath. Submerge.
A black fluke silhouetted
against the Manhattan skyline.

Now ICE beats doors
down on Liberty Avenue
to deport. I sit alone on orange

A train seats, mouth sparkling
from Singh’s, no matter how
white supremacy gathers

at the sidewalks, flows down
the streets, we still beat our drums
wild. Watch their false-god statues

prostrate to black and brown hands.
They won’t keep us out
though they send us back.

Our songs will pierce the dark
fathoms. Behold the miracle:

what was once lost
now leaps before you.

Here’s a shameless plug of a poem I wrote on how it feels being questioned about how American I am. I had written and shared this poem two years ago when I first started working here at Daily Kos.

Are you American?

I would be asked as the summer grew hotter
Where is the flag waving at your front door?
The colors red, white, and blue on your shirt?
Where is your pride in the country that represents your freedom?

I did not understand at that age
that I was expected to fill each page
with an apology for my skin
with an apology for my culture
with an apology for my religion
with an apology for my people

I did not understand at that age
that I was expected to condemn
each act of terrorism
each act of sexism
that was associated with my people

I did not understand at that age
that I was not considered American
that not openly expressing my pride
was taking the wrong side

I will not apologize for my identity
continuously explain to you
that we are the same
despite my name

I am as American as you
and although I often feel shame
at the decisions our country has made
it does not make it any less of mine
as it is yours
realize
America is made on the bricks of diversity
since the beginning of its time
and that is the truth
not just some damn line.

Ending it on a happy note with this Hamilton-inspired song by actor, singer, and activist Rizwan Ahmed.

Have any immigrant-related poems you love? Please share them, I’d love to see.



Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.