the voiceless

A poem read during a vigil for the Remain in Mexico policy (MPP, Migrant Protection Protocols). Two years of Trump’s policy which, in effect, removed protections for migrants, keeping them at the border trying to survive, because the country refused to allow them in.

don’t call them the voiceless

migrants or asylum seekers

– those who passed countless borders,

who left all they knew because they were persecuted for their beliefs,

chased from their neighborhoods, their lives threatened,

their children doing without,

the scarcity of food, safety,

jobs –  

all for the promise this country offers

Jose Marti says “los grandes derechos no se compran con lagrimas,

– sino con sangre”

this is what it costs to survive,

to wrap into heart muscle the strength and insistence

to complete each day

so that their families have the chance at a better life

sometimes only a few feet away

that this unflowered promise and the scarcity of a life

is better than where they’ve traveled from,

sometimes safer than the uncertainty of their former lands…

and Americans?

we have forgotten our nature is to migrate,

to find safety, to build in a place that will be home,

to carry that desire in our bodies

without doubt

trusting our ability to protect and provide

for ourselves and our families

something in us long ago lost

lost the understanding that we or our families

were born in the same circumstance

this land never ours,

from the Lenape to the Coahuiltecan

we thrust ourselves here

after all that had been inhospitable, unforgiveable

we have forgotten to be gracious

we have forgotten to allow others’ dreams to blossom in this soil

just as our dreams once did

we have forgotten

and this is how we lose ourselves

even while these voices insist,

voices longing to be part of us,

who know survival is not a life

but still blood moves all of us

            blood moving, no time for tears

with dignity, face to face with the layers and layers of denial in this world,

acres of hurt contested, denied, and saturated with the history and blood of people

who have worn down their welcome, been cast aside, approached us, and were denied

as a country we speak of forefathers

inheritance and pride

everything we debate rooted in the conditional

we haven’t yet learned

we inherit only what we offer others

tell me: if all we must do is feed ourselves and feed others,

who feeds those who have built temporary shelters, share food along the border?

who embraces those who attempt to cross, only to drown?

who will hold us accountable because we have lost our way?

who will remind us of that promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

how long until we realize that to deny any who need our help

means we deny ourselves a life of self-respect?

of open arms?

how long until we see we are at the border,

watching the horror of our own acts?

how long until we recognize

we are the ones who hear no one,

who do not see,

who are the truly voiceless?

Author: Jo Reyes-Boitel

poet, playwright, and essayist. queer Latinx.

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