poem where no one is deported

now i like to imagine la migra running
into the sock factory where my mom
& her friends worked. it was all women

who worked there. women who braided
each other’s hair during breaks.
women who wore rosaries, & never 

had a hair out of place. women who were ready
for cameras or for God, who ended all their sentences
with si dios quiere. as in: the day before 

the immigration raid when the rumor
of a raid was passed around like bread
& the women made plans, si dios quiere.

so when the immigration officers arrived
they found boxes of socks & all the women absent.
safe at home. those officers thought

no one was working. they were wrong.
the women would say it was god working.
& it was god, but the god 

my mom taught us to fear
was vengeful. he might have wet his thumb
& wiped la migra out of this world like a smudge

on a mirror. this god was the god that woke me up
at 7am every day for school to let me know
there was food in the fridge for me & my brothers.

i never asked my mom where the food came from,
but she told me anyway: gracias a dios.
gracias a dios del chisme, who heard all la migra’s plans

& whispered them into the right ears
to keep our families safe.

More by José Olivarez

I Walk Into Every Room and Yell Where the Mexicans At

i know we exist because of what we make. my dad works at a steel mill. he worked at a steel mill my whole life. at the party, the liberal white woman tells me she voted for hillary & wishes bernie won the nomination. i stare in the mirror if i get too lonely. thirsty to see myself i once walked into the lake until i almost drowned. the white woman at the party who might be liberal but might have voted for trump smiles when she tells me how lucky i am. how many automotive components do you think my dad has made. you might drive a car that goes and stops because of something my dad makes. when i watch the news i hear my name, but never see my face. every other commercial is for taco bell. all my people fold into a $2 crunchwrap supreme. the white woman means lucky to be here and not mexico. my dad sings por tu maldito amor & i’m sure he sings to america. y yo caí en tu trampa ilusionado. the white woman at the party who may or may not have voted for trump tells me she doesn't meet too many mexicans in this part of new york city. my mouth makes an oh, but i don't make a sound. a waiter pushes his brown self through the kitchen door carrying hors d’oeuvres. a song escapes through the swinging door. selena sings pero ay como me duele & the good white woman waits for me to thank her.  

now i’m bologna

my parents were born from a car. they climbed out
& kissed the car on its cheek. my grandmother.
to be a first generation person. 23 and Me reports
i am descendant of pistons & drive trains. 33%
irrigation tools. you are what you do. my first job
was in a lunch meat factory. now i’m bologna.
it’s not so bad being a person. the front seat of a car
is more comfortable than the trunk. when they were babies
my parents dreamt of being Lamborghinis. not
people. you are what your children grow up to do.
if i put my parents' names on papers, what happens?
the answer is no comment. the answer is quién sabe.
the answer is yo no sé, pero no es abogado.
people are overrated. give me avocados.

Related Poems

Deportation Letter

                      for my cousin Julia Zetino

The words Notice to Appear flap like a monarch trapped in a puddle.
Translation: ten years in a cell cold enough to be named Hielera.
If not that, a plane with chains locked to her legs. My aunt swam across
the Río Bravo twice to see her second daughter born in Greenbrae.
¿Why can’t my sister come here? asks the one who speaks English.
The monarch’s beaten, but it won’t listen. Since nothing’s wasted,
it might get eaten, it will nourish ants already gathering.

      *
It was a hill like this. I was tired. I couldn’t keep running and fell. If it wasn’t for
the women who went back to pick me up from the shore, I wouldn’t be here.

      *
Somewhere along here there’s a bridge. A cactus-pear bridge, red
like: the dirtiest sunset, Gila monster hiding, leftover sardines in tin.
¿The hibiscus sprouting? ¿Bougainvillea? One daughter wakes
and sees them and the volcano, and fire flowers through her window.
She’s never seen the bridge her mom isn’t afraid of.

      *
My aunt, twenty-five years selling pupusas near that pier, ten and counting
cleaning houses, baking bread, anything in Larkspur. Most people
in La Herradura haven’t seen their parents. Her daughter Julia, over there.
Here, her daughter Adriana takes the bus to school every day.

      *
The first try we were already in that van and La Migra was chasing us. The driver
said he was going to stop, we should open the doors and run. There were a lot of trucks.
Sirens. Men through the speakers. I got to a bush and hid. One dog found me.
He didn’t bite. He just stood next to me till one gringo handcuffed me.

      *
This beach, these hills, are pretty. It looks like La Puntilla, except it’s cold.
I wish Julia was here. Javier, take a picture of Adriana and me. I’ll send it to Julia.

      *
It’s complicated. Mamá me dejaste, decí que vas a regresar, I said, at night
on that same bed you sleep in now. Same bed next to the window
from which you see the lemons, the custard apples, the bean fields,
then the volcano. I’m sorry none of us ever saw you draw butterflies
like we see Adriana draw them, with the caption: “the butterflies
were going to save the world from tornado. And did.”

from Return to Tetaroba

light that day | bright | & the air hot | & meeting bones
of those I would never know en the panteón
speaking Sinaloan Spanish | which has always
been the accent I’ve understood most
despite hearing it least in my life

sígueme he sd | follow me
we must walk | roads unpaved lined
with stones & dust | so much dust
| polvo | of airborne bones &
saguaro ancestors watching us
their shadows trailing us |
as sr Nalo led us past a dried
creek & just over a small hill
& there | a house with no doors
& there attached to this home
the walls of another | walls covered
in hot black plastic | secured with rope
there | the walls of Francisco’s home
what was left of Francisco’s home
now a storage space for another family’s home
aquí el vivió | sr Nalo sd | he lived here |
Rosario after decades of waiting | left this home
& lived with her children | Francisco’s children
from his first family | closer to the center
of el rancho Tetaroba | how los Alvarez
of Arizona dwindled to less people
over one hundred years &
how los Alvarez of Tetaroba
increased & lived in all parts of Mexico
touch these walls | de color colorado
they were the same yr grandfather felt
you feel the heat | they breathe hot

touch these walls | paredes en la frente y la mente
they were the same yr grandfather felt
you feel the heat | they breathe hot
I pocketed a piece of this wall
& later when drunk | way drunk after
getting to know mis primos better
over chelas | I stumbled into the hotel
hot tears in my eyes | dad I sd |
I kept this for you | for all of us
but always for you to keep him
& to remember | always remember
what he did |

| climbing down the drainage of red
rock | sweet minted plants |
Robert | my father | father of five
all born in Arizona | Robert
stops to catch his breath then rips
bamboo from root | clouded
red dust clumps dropping |
this is where he was born
& now we know why | now
we know why & now we can see why

breaking away to the u.s.

finally,
a day so perfect that
this morning’s awakening bombs
are overtaken by a woman’s wind chimes
of “tamales, tamales.”

on the way to the airport
iguanas hang upside down,
even they smile.

along farms and fields
rotten bullet seeds
are overtaken by flowering weeds.

on the side of the highway
a tall Maquilishuat tree gives
birth to premature pink petals
&
inside a plane headed north,
yani & i fly so high
that we can’t tell
cornfields from fences;
it’s such a perfect
final day.