Jonathan Mendoza – “In Conversation with America” @WANPOETRY


– In conversation with America, she says, “Bring me a story.” I say, I have no story. She says, “Then bring
me something from home.” I say, I have no home. She says, “Then where
are you from, brown boy?” I say, I am not brown. America says, “But you are not white.” I say, “Neither are you.” (crowd ohhs) She says, “Nevermind,
tell me about homeland.” I say, if homeland is the place from which my bones ascend, then my
mother is from New York, my father is from Mexico. “And before that?” she asks. His grandparents from Mexico,
hers from Eastern Europe. “And before that?” I don’t know. “Before that?” I don’t know. “Before that?” I don’t know. “Okay, fine. “Tell me why you aren’t so
quiet about the white part.” And I tell her, I do not obsess
with what I can’t unbury. She asks, “You who speaks so
constantly of preservation, “has the Jewish in your blood
not some recipe for survival?” I say. She responds, “Tell me why you are so “obsessed with the brown parts?” I say, define obsessed. She says, “In which you
cannot unhinge your grasp.” I say, I never had one. I stepped foot in the land once, twice. I didn’t know the language well enough to tell them I love them. I could say te amo, te amo, but that does not flesh the being. I remember a time when my
father thought I was lost. I was in the capital, buying pirated films in an outdoor market. Joyful and civilian. My father found me and shouted
that I’d escaped his sight. He says it to my green eyes and fair skin. I’m a foreigner in my own body. “So is Mexico not home?” she asks. I say, I told you, my father says it’s not safe for me there. “So is Poland not home?” she asks. I say, I told you, my history says it’s
not safe for me there. “So is Boston not home?” she asks. I say, I told you, my depression says it’s
not safe for me there. “So what is home?” Home is a street in
which threat is illusion. Home is a storm and love is the water. You strike the air, home hugs the fist. You spill your mother’s
tea, home kisses each hand. Home is a dream that swaddles all of you. Which is to say, I don’t believe in home. At least, not that it is a place. Home has become a word we use to declare what we believe we own. I do not own home. I am home. So no, I don’t believe
in home as you define it. I believe in safety, and the names we use to call our lover’s refuge. Does that answer your question? “No,” America sighs. “You can go back to your desk now. “Get back to work.” (crowd cheering)

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