Sueño, America (I Dream, America)

By: Janeth Reyes

I was born at the wrong place
At the wrong time
Both my parents seeking a better life
For my sister and I
To find comfort across the border
Where movie stars and country folk
Looked deceivingly happy
Slowly becoming part time parents
Obsessed with full time jobs

Papa comes home with stains of green
On his pants from working in the fields
Since three
In the morning
Left with thoughts of his father who died when he was young
Who understands we depend on him
Just like his six siblings had in the past
Papa who deprives himself of sleep
Just so he can see his children be seen as something more than
Tan skin and mechanics who work in the south end
So we don’t have to hear a pained
Proceeded with “forgive me” and “next week” and “I promise”

Mama who hesitates when we ask if we can sleep over at Mary’s house
Because she goes over all the bad things that could happen when she’s not there
Things that happened to her when she took the late night train when cerdos pulled the end of her blouse
Mama who never got her diploma
Everyday working at a factory with men who whistled and hollered
“Ay Mamacita”
Who now makes dinner with whatever she can find
Because there is no money for food
Because it’s been a month since her check has been due

Years of tilted pigtails and ketchup soup
They decided to leave for the American Dream
Praying to god
It was just like what they saw in movies and TV
So that maybe we didn’t feel the urge to cover ourselves
Every time we walked down street
So that maybe we didn’t have to add iron bars to our already chipped windows
So that maybe we could have more opportunities to succeed
So that maybe we didn’t have be told we couldn’t

My sister took lead
And memorized every state capital
And made sure to read
Every word as if it were her mother tongue
Learned how to be an adult at the age of fifteen
While kids her age acted like children
Knowing they didn’t have to grow up
Until they grew into their office uniforms and graduation caps
Picking red or blue as if choosing teams in a game
Where you lose unless you know how to be played a certain way
Complaining about cars that are “so last year”
While she comes home with the smell of coffee beans and vanilla
Closing up like a Sanguinaria in the evening
Waking up to the buzzing of people who pick and pluck
Believing that she can’t speak up
All of them believing that we won’t wake up

El Sueño Americano
Where the dream is short lived
Stuck in a constant state of sleep paralysis
Where those like me are just bothersome calluses
In the hand of the President
Where we’re harassed with pitchforked words
Because calls to our mothers
Infuriate and trigger words written on his keyboard
Pushes and shoves
Death threats galore
That I wish to ignore
We are taught to fend for ourselves
But right now
I will never stop speaking for those like me
Who wish out of the “American dream”