Here is a short story from Heather Koelle. This is the first short story we have received…Very exciting, and a tough story to tell. Thank you Heather!
Where Are We From?
Maria Elena Gonzales walked slowly under the Texas sun. Already hot and tired, after departing from the truck that had carried her and her two children to the border, she hoped she would find safety from the Mexican gang that had already killed her husband and were looking for her. She had to reach safety before Juan Rodriguez and his men found her.
She hoisted the baby in her sling, hoping the child would stay asleep until she was in a safe place. Her four year old, Elena, held tightly to her hand. She was very hungry. Maria had run out of food during the long journey in the windowless truck. Yet, she considered herself lucky. Many migrants had been riding with her and kids for days in the heat, some of them were dead on arrival. At the moment Maria approached, the baby Riccardo began to wail.
Maria tried to shush the whimpering child.
“Mamma knows, little one, that you need to be fed, just a little bit longer and I will find a place to stop and nurse you. And Elena I will ask the guards where we can find food for you and me.”
Maria didn’t know that crossing the border was illegal. She had no papers. But she had heard the United States was a free country, and that many immigrants were already there. She couldn’t read very well, having only had a few years of schooling before she went to work in the fields with her momma and brothers. She was hoping to find work in Texas, maybe joining her cousin who lived near the border.
As Maria and her two children crossed the into the US, they were met with two burly border patrol guards, blocking their way. Maria didn’t know any English, so she inquired in Spanish “, What is the matter?”
The guards, unable to speak Spanish, yelled at her.” you are here illegally, you dumb spic”. They waved their guns in her face. The children began to cry. The guard took a look at little Elena, dark curls and huge brown eyes wide with fear, and yanked her away from her mother. Maybe he would have fun with her later.
“She is coming with me” the guard said, harshly, and the baby, too”
By this time the baby was screaming, and Elena began to cry, reaching out for her mother, “Mama, mama”.
The guards dragged her away. Maria tried to give little Ricardo some milk before they took him, but the second guard yanked the baby away from her exposed breast.
“You should have thought about coming here without your papers before coming here,” The guard said. He had a crew cut and a military bearing, a rigid stance. His eyes were flat and unemotional as he pulled the screaming baby out of his Maria’s arms.
“Why are you taking my children?” They have done nothing wrong?” she wailed. But the patrol guards, not understanding Spanish walked away carrying her children.
“Where are you taking them”, she cried out” but all she saw was their backs as they strode towards a military truck that would transport the children to refugee camps. A third guard took Maria and shoved her into another truck, saying “This is your fault. You are breaking the law” You will not see your children again until you agree to go back to Mexico.”
Later that day, the two children were put in a large cage with hundreds of other crying children. Some infants were sleeping on the floor. They were given food and water, the baby fed a bottle and his diaper changed. Then night fell. And all that could be heard was the sobs of little children. Lost, and bewildered.
By then, Maria could not hear them.
In Anticipation of Mid-Term Elections in November
the I Am From Project
to be part of an Action!
During the week of October 8th, celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day by bringing your experience, your diverse verse to the universe!
Our goal is to flood our legislators’ offices with I am From poems from all over the country to remind them of who We the People really are.
You can email your I Am From poem to your senator or congressperson, beginning with a brief statement:
“Hello. I am a constituent in (or resident of) your district. I am concerned about the future of our democracy. I am from_______________________________________.”
You can call as well:
“Hello. I would like to speak to the (senator, congressman.) I am a resident of your district and I vote (or am a future voter). I am concerned about peace, justice and the future of our democracy. I am from______________________________.” (Since you will probably be cut off before you can read the whole poem, choose lines that are central to your identity.)
print up your poem and mail it via snail mail to arrive sometime during that week.
suggest to your students that they write I am From poems, and email them in with your help.
send postcards or march to your legislators’ nearest office and deliver your poems in person.
have a rally and carry picket signs with your poems.
be anonymous or very public. Sign your name or not.
Any way your imagination takes you in your I Am From poems will demonstrate what a rich and multicultural country we are. We want to counter a version of the American Dream which is a nightmare for so many of us.
Send your ideas to iamfromproject.com and we will post those. Send pictures, videos of actions!
The U.S. Means Us!
Let’s Make Our Voices Heard!
Below is the first of, we hope many, “Where I am Going” poems. Please send us some and we will make a collection!
Where I Am Going
Kay Thompson Fields
I am going inwards, in search of my authentic self,
tired of running the roads, heavy loads, punctuality,
accountability to others, weary of life as connect
the dots activity, a continuous challenge to hatch
new plots, schemes, chase elusive futile dreams.
Inside me is where I choose
to be, so much rich ore to be mined
from my mother lode, so many poems
to savor, countless words to write
spiced with my personal flavor. No
more time to waste outside my own space.
Acquired all I need
with reckless, heedless speed,
now perched in my own nest, I
will curate the best, donate what fails
to resonate or delight. To read at
will, to contemplate, to dream both
day and night, no more flight from hindsight.
I have arrived at last at my destination.
All hail, hours spent in quiet contemplation.
I am From Project
This is a lovely email from Lee Ballinger and the connection he draws with Vijay Gupta..and with Dvorak’s music. “I was the son of poor parents and was raised in an atmosphere of struggle and endeavor”..(Dvorak)
And too, Lee’s thought at the end of his email:
“As so many of us despair at the brutality of DACA’s repeal, the continued brutality against Black and Native people, perhaps we might play Dvorak’s music with a bit more despair, a bit more wildness, and the clear knowledge that America will always be a process towards finding what might be our own moral symphony for a new world.”
Let us find the music to go with the I Am From poems, and play it with “despair, wildness and a sense of our moral symphony.”
Thought you might have ideas on how to connect with the New York Philharmonic’s season long city-wide project revolving around Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” and its theme of “home.”
Here is my friend Vijay Gupta, violinist with the LA Philharmonic, on the New World Symphony. If you wanted to use his comments in some way, you can reach him on Facebook.
Gupta began a September 6 Facebook post by quoting the Czech composer Anton Dvorak on living in America:
“…And so, it is very wild here, and sometimes very sad, sad to despair.”
“If in my own career I have achieved a measure of success and reward, it is to some extent due to the fact that I was the son of poor parents and was reared in an atmosphere of struggle and endeavor.”
Vijay Gupta continues: Thoughts as I play my last Hollywood Bowl concert this season: Dvorak, a short, poor, Bohemian man tasked with finding an ‘American’ sound in post-Civil war America, composed much of the revered New World Symphony in rural Iowa, reflecting on his experiences with Black and Native people. He also spent much of his life creating ways for Black musicians to find their own uniquely American voice.
What would Dvorak’s New World Symphony be today?
As so many of us despair at the brutality of DACA’s repeal, the continued brutality against Black and Native people, perhaps we might play Dvorak’s music with a bit more despair, a bit more wildness, and the clear knowledge that America will always be a process towards finding what might be our own moral symphony for a new world.
We are encouraged by the response on facebook as well as the website for the I AM FROM Project. Your poems, comments, ideas, excitement means the project is on its way.
We have rethought the April date for our action and want to push ahead some months to plan for the 2018 elections. Given our work schedules and teaching schedules we would like to aim for the fall of 2018 to get I Am From poems, marches, lobbying efforts and other creative interpretations to our congress men and women, to the President and to local officeholders.
Ideas for this push can be reading poems in the local offices of our congress people as well as candidates running for office. Those vying for positions as mayors, council men and women, and state officials would be excellent people to present with a reading, scroll or booklet. We also hope to be a presence at the Mabel Dodge Festival, October 2108.
We can still work on putting the poems that we have been collecting into a book that can be carried and left at strategic parts of our cities and towns. If anyone has connections to publishing or has done self- publishing, please email email@example.com We have been collecting them as they come in so have the beginning of a fine publication.
We especially want to encourage teachers, community leaders, and artists to use a “Where I am From” poem on the website to get your classes, clients, workers, to write and send in poems. We can archive them, having them ready for whatever project comes along. If you use the poems in any activities and can take a photo or video of those activities, please do and send them along to the email.
We have been aware that immigrants who may be undocumented might not want their names attached to what they send. That is fine with us. You can be anonymous. We know these are times of great uncertainty and insecurity among many of our citizens and want to acknowledge this, while hoping you feel comfortable sending your poems along to us. We value your voices.
Here is a link to a radio interview George Ella Lyon and I did for the National Writing Project. Scroll down…A great project and a fine chance to speak to a large audience.
More and more people are joining the site, the facebook page, sending poems. Keep it going!