I Was 4 Years Old in Two Voices/Who Would Jesus Deport: A Poem

I was 4 years old
in a comfy neighborhood
4 year old dreams
of running
running through fields of tall grass
the top of my head and the
soles of my feet are
all you can see

I am 4 years old
casually walking into
neighbors’ houses asking
for cookies and juice
to their bemusement
I was 4 years old
little and non threatening
and they knew my
parents
our house
same as theirs
I had problems with
boundaries

Every door was
an invitation
doors to houses, cabinets,
closets.
I was 4 years old
and I did not understand
the difference between
yours and
mine.

I was 4 years old
and I was the oldest
grandchild and I was
surrounded by family holding
me, playing with me reading
me stories over and over
and over again.

I was 4 years old and
I was
happy.

(National Archives)

(National Archives)

2.

I was 4 years old
in a happy barrio
with Papi, Mama, Abuela
and many Tias
I had 4 year old dreams
of swimming in the
river with Papi
we were swimming
and splashing with
the fish
I was 4 years old
and when I went
to Abuela’s house she
would make churros
and sweet things
and my cousins and I
would run together
through the streets
and houses in
the sun.

I was 4 years old
and one day
Papi wasn’t home
my Tias were gone
and I wasn’t allowed
to run outside anymore.
I did not really understand
outside or inside
doors were always open
family was everywhere
and one day
Papi did not come home
anymore
and Mama got mad at me
for running
and Abuela was pulling
things out of her wall
These are bullets mi’jo
she said in her Abuela voice
Can I play with them?

I was 4 years old
and one day Mama
pinned a piece of paper
to my shirt and
a man called
Tio Beto came to
take me to my
cousins house
far away
I was 4 years old
and I was crying
and I did not know
far away
Mama said
don’t worry
I’ll be there soon.

We rode a big bus
most of us kids
yelling, crying
I was hungry
I was thirsty
It was all dust
and sun
I was 4 years old
and we met a big
white man with a gun.

He said
where you from?
I said
my house.
the man with the big gun
said
you’re going home boy.
I said good
I miss my Mama
but they put me
on that bus
and I never went home
I went to another house
and I couldn’t find Mama
and I’m 4 years old
and the big white man with a gun
told me I was going home
I’m 4 years old
and I am
alone.

***

Rick Kearns is a Boricua poet, journalist and teacher. He’s the Poet Laureate of Harrisburg, PA. His poems have appeared in many literary reviews and 6 national anthologies. His latest book is Rufino’s Secret, Foothills Publishing, title poem based on a Taíno legend.

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