To The Children Of Immigrants

Every time the question arises,
In a room with shiny chandeliers,
Colorful cocktails,
And hushed ‘indoor’ voices,
A bright, beautiful abstraction,
Removed from the dark, cockroach-infested reality,
Of too many cardboard boxes
Carrying clothes,
Carrying childhood memories,
Carrying trauma,
Smelling of the guilt of sacrifices,
And every time someone asks,
So, what does your father do?
What does your mother do?
And you cower,
Hang your head,
Lower your eyes,
Sometimes in shame,
Sometimes in vulnerability,
Sometimes too exposed, too soon
An image of your dear working-class parents surface,
Working-too-hard-for-too-fucking-long parents
And you see the eyes of your aging father
Your brown, Arab, African, Eastern European,
South American father
Behind the wheels of a cab,
Whizzing through the dark streets of the desolate NYC skyline,
Eyes forming cataracts searching for passengers,
Or behind the facade of an upscale Upper West Side bistro,
Hidden behind piles of dirty plates, or a skillet frying onions,
Your Mexican father cooking meat, burning in the embers,
While the chef prepares the “delightfully done” presentation
And receives the accolades of white patrons,
Of your father’s hard work
To the children of immigrants
With parents working as
Bellboys, bus-boys, truck-drivers,
Department workers, fast food restaurant cashiers,
Dunkin Donut employees,
Churros-seller, Street peddlers, Shoe-shiners,
Fish-sellers, Fruit vendors, Construction workers,
Cleaning ladies, Caretakers, Janitors
Bending on breaking knees,
Using the very hands they used to feed your dreams,
Smudging away the tainted spots of their lost selves,
Only because they aren’t paid to use their minds,
But their bodies,
Do not let them know
Do not let them ever feel shamed,
They navigate the cruelty of American society,
As it is,

Thahitun Mariam is a poet, writer, activist and community organizer living in New York City. Brought up in a rural village in Bangladesh for the first six years of her life, then settling in a working class community in the Bronx has been pivotal to understanding the inspiration behind her creative work. From her immigrant background, she delves into topics of displacement, identity, migration, belonging, and social justice. She is a 2017 recipient of the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program: Literary and Performing Arts with New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a founding member of the South Asian Diaspora Artists Collective (SADAC) and spends her time exploring historical archives of South Asian and Middle Eastern artists while penning poetry. She hopes to provide an understanding of the nuances of the global immigrant and diaspora experiences through her storytelling. It is important to share the real narratives of immigrant communities so they are not misrepresented or warped by those who are currently in power.

Recently, her poem “Balady: Love of One’s Country” was featured on Global Citizen’s Women Poets series for April 2017 National Poetry Month.

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