Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

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Border Song: A Mercy of Triolets [AUDIO]

in Immigration/U.S. by

 

Border Song #1

Say, stolen child, the world from which you’ve come.
You can’t go back, although you know you must.
Your father grieves, your mother is undone.
Say, stolen child, the world from which you’ve come.
You, their only daughter. You their only son.
All their dreams are now turned to dust.
Say, stolen child, the world from which you’ve come.
You can’t go back, although you know you must.

 

Border Song #2

They confiscate your rosary when you come.
I cannot go to sleep without one.
Thumbing each bead until the night is done.
They confiscate your rosary when you come.
There’s nowhere to hide it. Nowhere to run.
It was my dead mother’s. Now I have none.
They confiscate your rosary when you come.
I cannot go to sleep without one.

 

Border Song #3

I came with just a hairbrush and a watch
to keep my beauty and to keep track of time.
They took them both the morning I was caught.
I came with just a hairbrush and a watch.
Food was what I craved. Work was what I sought.
Now none of these fine things can be made mine.
I came with just a hairbrush and a watch.
I’ve lost my beauty and lost all track of time.

 

Border Song #4

My child sleeps in a cage and yet he sings
like the birds of paradise we left behind.
Knowing nothing of the fear the future brings
my child sleeps in a cage and yet he sings.
The children in the states live like kings.
The lies they told us haunt my waking mind.
My child sleeps in a cage and yet he sings
like the birds of paradise we left behind.

 

Border Song #5

I dream of corn tortillas and black beans
and eat the food the white men bring to me.
White bread and bologna. Canned green beans.
I dream of corn tortillas and black beans.
Old and poor, a man of little means,
I took my buen provencho beneath the banyan tree.
I dream of those tortillas and black beans
and eat the food the white men bring to me.

 

Border Song #6

Seventy-six women locked inside a cell
made for twelve. This is a little hell.
We cannot bathe. We cannot stand our smell.
Seventy-six women locked inside a cell.
Some of us are sick. None of us is well.
Seventy-six women dying in a cell
made for twelve. Welcome to our hell.

 

Border Song #7

I lost my country. Now I’ve lost my mind.
I did not know the price would be so high,
that they would hate me since I’m not their kind.
I lost my country. Now I’ve lost my mind,
despise the skin I’m bound in. I have consigned
myself to exile in a place where I will die.
I lost my country. Now I’ve lost my mind.
I did not know the price would be so high.

 

Border Song #8

Sing me freedom. Sing me some good news.
Sing a song it heals my heart to hear.
I’m all alone. My only friend’s the blues.
Sing me freedom. Sing me some good news.
They stole my shoestrings and they stole my shoes.
But shod or not, I’m walking out of here.
Sing me freedom. Sing me your good news.
Sing a song it heals my heart to hear.

 

Border Song #9

I am a father, though I have no son.
They wrested him away and now he’s gone.
I had no knife, no passport, no gun.
I am a father, though I have no son.
They took away my moon. They took my sun.
All I do is weep from dusk to dawn.
I am a father, though I have no son.
They wrested him away and now he’s gone.

 

Border Song #10

Nothing is bluer than the Texas sky.
I watch it through the spaces in the bars.
Birds fly through it and clouds drift by.
Nothing is bluer than the Texas sky.
It lifts my heart. I don’t know why.
At night it goes black. Then I see the stars.
Nothing is bluer than the Texas sky.
I watch it through the spaces in the bars.

 

Border Song #11

I don’t know what it means to be alone.
I live with other strangers night and day.
I have no time or space to call my own.
I don’t know what it means to be alone.
I never would have come if I had known
I would be forced to give my soul away.
I don’t know what it means to be alone.
I live with other strangers night and day.

 

Border Song #12

We kill the children at the border.
This is the way we set them free.
It’s not our fault. We follow orders.
We kill the children at the border.
A hard life is better if it’s shorter.
Things aren’t the way they imagine them to be.
We kill the children at the border.
This is the way we set them free.

 

Border Song #13

Our country has a border crisis.
Our president eats cake and tweets.
It’s much less fun than fighting ISIS.
Our country has a border crisis.
A rich man doesn’t know how priceless
freedom is. He eats and eats.
Our country has a border crisis.
Our president eats cake and tweets.

 

Border Song #14

I woke to rain gentle on my skin
falling from the sky into my holding pen.
It wet my lips and dribbled down my chin.
I woke to rain gentle on my skin.
It tasted like home, the sweetest place I’ve been.
I dreamt I was back in my country again.
I woke to rain gentle on my skin
falling from the sky into my holding pen.

 

Border Song #15

Face down in the river lies a father.
Beside him lies his little daughter.
The saddest death is death by water.
He held her when the current caught her.
He did not leave. He did not falter.
Face down in the river lies a father.
His arms around his little daughter.

 

________

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell is a writer, poet and professor at Fordham University in New York City. She has published seven books of poems, most recently Still Pilgrim. Her eighth collection, Andalusian Hours: Poems From the Porch of Flannery O’Connor, will appear in 2020.

Photograph from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

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