Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Long, Brown Line

The line at the AM/PM
was long
and short
and dark brown.

These day laborers
who manicure the lawns
of the wealthy

and add the aftermarket
water fountains
to the McMansions

were stocking up
for the day:
coffee,
chewing tobacco,
and 2 for 1 hot dogs
overstuffed with
free condiments.

I look like I could be
related to them
through some long brown line
of ancestry.

They would
probably speak respectfully
to my mom,
probably work hard all day in the sun and
probably are here
illegally.

I stood at
at the end of the line
with another kind of brown.

He reminded me of
my dad:
He looked like
he was first-generation
Mexican-American,
who grew up
aspiring to assimilate..

He looked like
he earned the American Dream
owned his own home
sent his kids through college,
and even voted Republican.

I don’t know
what he assumed about me,
in my suit and tie
on my way to
my white collar job
in academia.

Perhaps he thought
he’d found a kindred spirit.

Referring to that line of
brown distant relatives ahead,
he turned to me
and in tones
mocking and conspiratorial
said

“Boy, Immigration would have
a field day here, huh?”

At that point
he stopped reminding me
of my dad.

I gave him
the cold, indifferent stare
I reserve for racists
and the otherwise
aggressively
ignorant

and channeled my father:
and I replied,
“No se.”

11 comments:

  1. "No Se" means "I don't know" in Spanish.

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  2. I look like I could be
    related to them
    through some long brown line
    of ancestry.

    I really like the way you reach this personal moment in the poem, and work the motif of the line itself, both literal and figurative.

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  3. Great commentary. Assumptions are not good.

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  4. Nice Buddah

    Much love...

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  5. I like the false sense of security in the poem, that starts fairly gentle, with innocent observations. I really like the stanza:
    'I look like I could be
    related to them
    through some long brown line
    of ancestry'
    And then a hint at something else, with the 'other kind of brown', which didn't prepare me for the blatant racism. The poem ends just as I wanted it to!

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  6. Ah, even voting Republican. I'm glad this guy didn't remind you of your father after all.

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  7. You described this scene perfectly. Situations like this happen all the time.

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  8. Yo. ADORO. Este. Poema. :)

    Holy hells I can relate to everything in this so much.

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  9. A sad commentary on how second and later generations look down upon those, who are struggling to provide the dream for their children and grandchildren, whether or not, they're in the U.S. or back home, in one of numerous Spanish speaking countries, in Latin and South America. we "whites" tend to forget that classism and racism knows no boundary. Thank you, for reminding me, this sad relative.

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  10. I don't know Spanish, but I knew without being told what the final phrase must mean – because you wrote the poem so well, and had me identify so much (despite the whole thing being outside my experience) that it just HAD to be that.

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  11. People have short memories when it comes to their beginnings.

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