Poem: “What Does An Illegal Immigrant Look Like?”

Palabras are powerful. You don’t have to look too far to find great examples and we were fortunate to find this gem written by Juneau, Alaska raised Christy Namee Eriksen titled, “What Does An Illegal Immigrant Look Like?’

A beautiful poem that challenges you to think and see undocumented immigrants as anything but the stereotypes that have fueled laws like SB1070 to be mandated. In times of need, in times of a voice, it seems poets are the first to respond. Even though this poem was written in 4/28/2010 it still holds truth today as it did when it was created and its important that we share such important words.

It is also good to mention that this poem was also featured on race-talk.

Credit: http://nysiaf.org/2010/10/02/drop-the-i-word/i-am-not-illegal-2/

We here at Latino Rebels would like to extend our gratitude to Christy Namee Eriksen and thank her for such beautifully written piece.

WHAT DOES AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT LOOK LIKE?
4/28/10

An illegal immigrant
looks like a nickel
tails up
on the sidewalk,
fallen out of someone’s pocket.

She looks like pressed bleached sheets
on cheap beds
tucked tight,
a hundred of them
twelve stories high.

I saw one like a mango,
peeled and sprinkled with chili powder
on a stick like america,
layers cut diagonally,
a flower on Lake Street.

She looks like an amethyst grape
plucked by the millions,
stains like bruises
but she’s sorry and she loves you.

He looks like that kid
I don’t know his name
but he sits over
there
and his lunch stinks.

She looks like a street of Harajuku,
straight cut bang and bangles,
heavy print and bright colors
-oh my bad -
that’s Gwen Stefani!
(She might be legal.)

An illegal immigrant looks like
Chinese Exclusion 1882
Asian Exclusion 1924
Executive Order 9066
Patriot Act 2001
SB1070 five days ago

1911
looks like an angel made of bunk beds and cells
where Chinese men write poems into the wooden wall like it could weather the wait,
looks like a store sign
in 1922
“Absolutely no dogs or Filipinos allowed”,
like 1942 spam
rolled up like an enemy
internment camp sushi.

He is a community tree in the 1930s.
Or the 1940s or the 1960s
who has seen
too
many
dead people
to climb on.

He is a boat
in 1492
sailing the ocean blue

black
brown
red
yellow.

He looks like a hill
made of bodies
covered in grass
and a playground,

like a scar
on the bottom of my feet,
still growing.

He looks like
Joseph Ileto who looked like Vincent Chin who looked like Fong Lee who looked like
your neighborhood postman, like a good husband, like a boy on a
maddening threatening five deviled bicycle,
looked like a good target, like a bad seed, like the wrong crowd, like a jap mother f**ker who stole “our” jobs,
so one by one by a hundred they
killed them

innocently.

Because if you look
like the law
you look
legal.

And the rest of us are just wire cages
and a magic trick away
from knowing whose turn it is
to be the sacrificial pigeon

and it’s showtime,
all the time,
so you need to know the difference.

Christy Namee Eriksen is a Korean adoptee poet who holds a B.A. in Social Justice, concentrating in Resistance and Racial Justice. She has performed in the Twin Cities at Patrick’s Cabaret, Intermedia Arts, Hamline University, Pillsbury House Theatre, and Equilibrium’s spoken word series at The Loft Literary Center. She is a featured artist on the 2009 Minnesota Spoken Word Album of the Year, “¿Nation of Immigrants?” produced by The Loft Literary Center. She has shared the stage with Ishle Park, Mayda del Valle, Bao Phi, the Good Asian Drivers and other really cool people. She lives in Juneau and is a proud mother. For more information please visit http://tsunameepoetry.blogspot.com/