On a visit to my Amá’s, she drives us to the DMV.
She must renew her license every few months.
The asylum case has not yet been approved.
Not enough evidence that home is unsafe.
The line is long. The DMV is inside a mall.
In America, everything is for sale. Migrants
pay for safety. We pay people to believe
that what we tell them is true, especially
when we have spared them the hardest
facts to hold. Immigration, DMV, school,
and medical forms ask for our stories.
We pay for our stories too. We pay in smiles,
pretend laughs, head nods, empty stomachs,
panic attacks reserved for elevators,
migraines that will last four days but go
unnamed :: unuttered. After thirty-eight, or
forty minutes, we advance seven or so people
and the Carter’s window is visible from where
Amá and I stand. Overalls. My heart raises.
Eyes begin to shake. Mall lighting hurts
my eyes. I see five Carter’s logos and know
there is only one. I slam my back against the
glass windows. People look (and pretend they
don’t). I try to find my inhaler. It’s not in my
pockets. I close my eyes. I think about a boy.
Kissing a boy. I think about him more. I open
my eyes and look for my mother. Avoid looking
at the Carter’s again. The DMV does not
renew the license. Something about an error
or a glitch :: a document and migration :: (maybe)
a mother and a child. At five, I wore a pair of
overalls. Crossed a border in them too.

Copyright © 2022 by Alan Pelaez Lopez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.