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Estrada cor. Arellano

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This city is choking

on millions of inhabitants

Nothing grows here.

Give me one real thing,

Help me unlearn what I’ve been taught

to want.

My mother country’s children squabble among each other.

No one has ever taught us what a fair share looks like.

As full as the plate is,

there is always room for more, isn’t there?

Everyone here seems to be starving,

In one way or another.

Every stereotype about us,

every real or imagined slight

is just a hunger pang.

We feed our souls on scraps

Of lies, half-truths, fantasy, pride

We claim the successes

of our distant brothers and sisters

Like someone trying to live

on only the smell of baking bread.

There are moments,

soaring on the flyover

above the settlements –

visiting my parents’ hometowns – some story in the papers –

when I feel compassion

such uncomfortable compassion, squeezing me

Like a dress I’ve outgrown

But these are the ones

who suffer politely

whom I can leave easily.

Much more difficult to love

are the ones I live with every day

Children who terrorize people on the sidewalk

Leaping out from alleyways, falling out of trees

Teenage mothers hauling their naked broods,

the crazy guy in front of the gate

covered in layers of dirt, and little else.

They defy narrative –

Are they the victims, or do they victimize themselves?

In a world where justice is equated with punishment,

Where people think that goodness is proven

By destroying the evildoers

Where is the satisfaction in revealing

That the prisoners in this war

Helped to put the shackles on their own wrists,

and walked knowingly into the traps?

We need a story:

A pure victim to rescue

And an irredeemable villain to hang.

Despite the absence of such a story, I feel compassion

Such bewildering compassion –

For the sparkle of a smile –

For the dirt under their nails –

For the sweat of a day’s honest work –

For the desperate thieves with mouths to feed –

Images I cannot weave into an arc,

Lives that do not conclude triumphantly

Or even tragically

But simply sputter out

Like a flame that leaves no trace

After the wind has blown the smoke away.

Give me one real thing

Give me one thing I can save

I would be content to live on

Nowhere but in someone’s memories,

In days I made as beautiful as I could.

Give me one real thing

Give me just one dream

That I could see come true

In the only life I get

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