Words Without Papers

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Words Without Papers

To be undocumented is to feel unheard. Reading and writing are often a luxury not afforded to people like us. When there is money to be made there is no time to place words on paper in hopes that our reality becomes better. We write poems on napkins …

To be undocumented is to feel unheard. Reading and writing are often a luxury not afforded to people like us. When there is money to be made there is no time to place words on paper in hopes that our reality becomes better. We write poems on napkins during 15-minute lunch breaks often not knowing if the world will hear us.

To be undocumented and to choose the life a poet is to know true defiance. As a teen, my undocumented status was a shadow that constantly reminded me of my limitations, but it was in books that I found a freedom to travel to other places around the world. I did not need a passport or social security number. All I needed to travel was empathy and imagination. Poetry became my passport.

Words have power. With them, we have been able to create realities and manifest dreams. Currently, with the conversation of labeling people like me “illegal” I find that poetry has been key in understanding that this is not my name. I use poetry to remind people that the only separation between you and me is a number, but the human condition is universal. You, like I, know pain, know laughter, know joy. You, like I, aspire to live in a just world.

As someone that has no recollection of where I come from, I use poetry as a way to piece together stories my grandmother speaks just so I can feel a sense of home. I, like many undocumented writers, use poetry to dream a world in which we are all free.

Guerrero Often times I long to remember where I come from I want to match the stories my grandmother speaks of when she tells me of home to concrete images my mind can absorb

I jump online and google search “Atoyac De Álvarez, Guerrero”

there I find pictures of the brown river my grandmother used to wash clothes in of houses made of steel sheets and mud bricks like the one we grew up in of hills and mountains of dirt roads the same color as my skin

as I scroll news of people kidnapped decapitated of a drug war a corrupt government villagers picking up arms to defend themselves

When people ask me, “Where are you from?” I want tell them to Google search my home to help me answer that question for myself

What does it mean to have pride in a country you have no memory of? To want to return to a place that your family fled?

What does it mean to be a poet writing in English when the land you write about cannot be translated?

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