Because he had a tattoo of a heart
with the name of his birthplace in Mexico.
Because she used a Social Security number
she had made up. Because he had one DUI
ten years ago. Because she overstayed
her visa when she was seven. Because
he didn’t sound like he’d been born in Lansing.
Because it took her an extra three months to save
the $495 to renew her work permit.
Because 20 years ago he bought a car
that had expired registration. Because she gave
a hand job to an undercover cop. Because she
took food stamps to feed her three kids
while she worked cleaning hotel rooms.
Because he had a joint on him twelve years ago.
Because fire is hungry and famine
walks the land. Because the night is dark
and full of terrors. Because we don’t want
you to play with us. Because it’s ours.
Because we can.
Jan Steckel is a poet and former pediatrician. Her book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. She has published two award-winning chapbooks: Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006). Her writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, California, “where we keep our fist in the air.”
Art remix by Elle Aviv Newton.