For the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs, 85th Legislature 1
Yo vi las mejores mentes de mi generación destrozadas por remesa madness.
Starving. 10 cent. Maruchán. Limón y Valentina slurpin’ paisas,
Who molt at the hum of frijoles over oil—the Caterpillar boots planted
on door sills, silk pants hanging over kitchen chairs. The skin
of a Costco shirt, drying.
Who hear people in the living room. Men in badges beside those in suits,
filling a pot-bellied tele. They hawk the head suspect, inspect
his tattooed skull for the ink to color in bar graphs, headlines,
the typeface of legislation.
Who have long last names to know how long white men have entered
Who ask the hyphen, what hurt do you harbor?
Who burnt his hands on a hot comal, fingers pawing the ends of a puffed-up
tortilla. The “Ow” instead of “Ay” carving continents inside a waist-
sized cocina. Until Apá heard the yelps of my Americanized tongue,
and bellowed from behind, “¡A ver! Manos de chicle.”
Who combed the racks of used ropa outside the Ecumenical Hunger Program.
He couldn’t help but to grab the expired Safeway loaves glimmering
in a sheen of blacked-out barcodes.
Whose first Mexican Standoff was his mother staring our breadwinner down,
blaring her ex-mariachi lungs to yell, “¡We don’t need it!”
Who visited 2415 University Av—saw City Hall, Human Services Agency,
the County Library, the police precinct—all crammed in three floors.
Entire departments living like projects.
Who stepped onto Stanford’s quad for quinceañera photos. The Burghers of Calais
under siege by the sons of Zapata, as Nacho yelled from a disposable Kodak,
“¡Toño! ¡Ponte más en medio!”
Who bought the latest Jenni Rivera album so later that night, my mother could perform
the exit song to her marriage.
Que cantó, con un karaoke box shaped like a suitcase, “¡YO SOOOOOOY
UNA MUJEEEEER DE CARNE Y HUESOOOOO!”
Who cannot tell you how he was as a husband. “I only know him as Papá.”
Who proudly touted his son’s 7th grade test scores, the ADVANCED bar graph
shaded so as to testify to the Menlo School Academic Office, “Mi hijo
es e-smart enuf. Es gud enuf!”
Who learned from his waiter-father that Mexican origami is the art of napkin folding.
Dear Carl Solomon, Metrazol is painful, but have you seen what culture shock does
to the ethnic body?
Who took a small corkscrew from a wine bottle, and said as we washed dishes
for their Passover, “Son, it’s rude to speak Spanish in front of them.”
So that before the Kosher drink filled their glass, I’d learned to balance
centuries of racial etiquette between the three dirty plates shaking
on my sleeve: Wrap the bottle in linen, enter from the right. Pour until the sediment
reaches the neck. Until white is right. White is right. White.
Why?! I gotta recite
this Lord’s Prayer?
Art Father, who art in Palo Alto,
hallowed be thy white,
thy Kingdom white,
thy will be white
in white, as it is in white.
Give us this day our daily white,
and forgive us of our brown feet
into Los Ángeles y Reynosa y Nogales
y cualquier portillo que nos diste-
Do Polynesian girls sing elegies outside
a U-Haul fence, so that the same freeway
that sliced our city’s torso, bled out fifty
businesses overnight, could see the card-
board epitaphs of our slain?
Does my mother apologize
for her English?
I’d grab her dedos, recíénes pintados
and kiss them. So that a decade later,
I’d still taste the Zote suds
at the Rutgers Writing Center.
So I’d smile at my 4th tutee
of the day, seeing Amá’s hands,
pinching my once-prickly face
across the table, and say,
“Professor López, my name
es María Velarde.”
What spics of cement and aluminio jamás estudiaron, and ate their own dreams?
¡Miedo! Fear! De no nacer acá. Of checkpoints cada cinco de mayo, o cuando Canelo
y Triple G pelean.
¡Miedo! Of a Honduran boy que llora as the jet fuel boils his lungs, “They’ll kill my mom
if you send her back!”
¡Miedo! ¡Miedo! ¡Pesadilla de Miedo! God of (below) minimum wage, of “Jes meister
e-Smith, the jedges es almost finish!”
Miedo whose insecticide of choice is Raid, the war-clad men who knock on a NC porch,
“Mrs. González, we know you’re in there.”
Miedo whose eyes are the blue and red lightbars cruising on the 101-South. Whose hands
are the tightened clench of my tío as his two hundred-pound frame nears an airport.
Miedo whose six children cry for Apá to come back and fill their bowls with Lucky Charms.
Miedo de cruzar. My tía’s hair is uncombed as she washes the crumbs of arroz from a Princess
and the Frog plate. El agua tibia de la pila wrinkles her hands. The thought refusing
to dry, “Hace tres días que mi hija me ha llamado.”
Miedo del día when the holy water runs out, when el padre stops praying for them,
cuando para de decir a la congregación, “Ruega por nosotros.”
Miedo de que sus hijos se metan en la droga, su marido al vicio, que sus hijas se embaracen.
Miedo de que “el patrón no me va a dar siempre las horas.”
Miedo de “respirar los químicos en el trabajo.”
Miedo de “ir a la tienda.”
Miedo a “llevar los chiquillos a la escuela.”
Miedo de perder este idioma, esta lengua que adornaba las paredes de mi niñez.
Que mi hija can discuss the political exegesis to The Crucible, but not be able
to tell her abuelita how her weekend was.
Pastor Lynn Godsey! President of the Hispanic Evangelical Ministerial Alliance,
I am with you in Austin, where you testified:
“One sergeant and five officers were sitting outside of [our] churches.
One pastor coming out was arrested…taken down and stripped naked.
Grandmothers were mistreated, arrested, and detained.”
Michael Seifert of the Southern Border Communities Coalition,
I am with you in Austin, where you testified:
“Even without the application of SB4, we have women
who I know personally have suffered domestic violence,
who are terrified about calling the police on their partner.”
I am with you, Jesús, when you said, “I was a stranger,
and you welcomed me.”
I am with you, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, when you revealed to The Prophet,
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice!”
I am with you, little chavita outside an SB protest, wearing a baby blue faldita
y strapped heels. Que alza the stars and stripes on her tippy toes,
so they may be seen from Ellis Island, to her abuelos in Michoacán.
I am with you, DREAMers y manifestantes, alumnos y clergyfolk, en Austin,
who nailed a PA system inside the heart of the State Insurance Building.
Your heads bowed in prayer as portraits of white men remained dead
to your call. As the deacon cried, “What we know while our presence
is here, our testimonies are here, our bodies and our souls are here,
is that truth crushed to the gravel will rise again.”
And Governor Abbot, I am even with you, inside your office while shouts pour
under your mahogany door. So I can smuggle your white-wing tweet
into this corrido and howl, from the thirteen Nahuatl heavens,
“The Texas City ban wins final legislative approval.”
“I’m getting my signing pen warmed up.”
 RE: Senate Bill 4, February 2, 2017