Immigrant

Back from my home country
We’ve heard of this land described as
The Land of of Opportunity.
As jingoistic as it may sound, that is truth.
To toil and work for an engineering degree
Only to work at a place that processes manure
Was the reality for my father.

The Land of Opportunity.
It was the land that my grandfather fought and bled under
When he fought on the accursed mountain
Soaked with blood
Hiding under the corpse of a fellow man
In that war to end all wars.
He was led on that trail with the frightful name:
The Bataan Death March.

He made a good name of himself
Becoming a police chief in a small fishing town
It was always a dream, though,
among my family
To shake off the husks from the rice paddy fields
And find the Land of Opportunity.

I stepped into an airport when I was five or six.
Chicago O’Hare.
And while my memory of those days are hazy at best
I do remember one thing:
It was cold.

I have an old picture that I scanned on my computer
It’s my mother, her eyes closed
She’s sleepwalking after the long flight
My dad had driven down to Chicago
Because he couldn’t wait to meet her
And there was me, wearing perhaps
My first winter coat.

And he drove that night to
our final stop on the trip:
A small one bedroom apartment in Detroit.
While my dad was no longer working with animal dung,
He was was now in a community college
and holding down a job at the Water Waste Treatment Plant.
That city, the dingy abandoned carcass of the world
Would be our home for the next fifteen years.

The Land of Opportunity.
It was never paradise,
But it was a place to start over.
Here we were,
alone,
in a cold, scary city far from “home,”
but driven by a belief that things would be better here
than if we haven’t moved at all.

We may be strangers.
Newcomers.
Immigrants.
Unwelcome, perhaps.
I’d like to think that we were pioneers.
Pioneers of Detroit.

— El Santo

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