(This poem was composed in response to arrests by ICE of multiple people in Princeton, NJ; some of the families are known to the author.)
Not here, they said. Not here, a knock
on the door before winter’s late dawn
a small boy reaching for the doorknob, a mamá slaps
his hand away, looks through the peephole, sees
an officer, a gun, two officers, a dark street, door opens, officer
shoves in, second raid this morning, the coffee not yet
hot, the cuffs and the guns, who is the señor of the house?
Hineni, said Abraham. Here I am. Hineni, and el señor, cuffed.
We marched for the DREAMers in the square today. They said
it wouldn’t matter, not in our town, it wouldn’t matter because we
like DREAMers, they dream such nice DREAMS, they are
the good ones, ¿no crees? But I know to march is no less than
sanctity, it means that here, life or death can both
occupy, here, life and death both matter. I used to paint a rainbow
on my face and cheer for Nick, my best friend, the first kid to come out
at Jackson Creek Middle School, I’d shit-talk football players
twice my size, leave him alone, that’s not gay because
gay isn’t an insult, you’re stupid, ¡déjalo!
But then Shira
at sixteen a rainbow on her cheek near the holy of holies
(rebuild Jerusalem our holy city bimhera beyameinu) Shira,
stabbed in the head, a lunatic haredi. You are marching
into battle into church all at once, even here life and death,
megaphone or knife? The Nicaraguan policeman keeps watch
in the street, our feet pray our voices carry, I have a dream,
Hineni, you cannot stop me, el pueblo unido jamás será
vencido. Here. Four fathers gone. They say Liliana saw, the men,
the cuffs, someone called her in the dark and she said, Hineni.
Four fathers taken.
¡Papá! te llamo así pero no estás, no me dices
Hineni. Shira’s parents turn off her bedroom light every night still,
boker achshav ve’hi enena, won’t say, Hineni. The winter dawn will
rise here tomorrow, or maybe it will fall.
Abraham wakes up. Hineni.
Saddles his donkey, takes his son. Not here, he thinks, as they climb
to a better place. Perhaps: handcuffs, in his back pocket. Shira’s death,
just a bad dream, a misunderstanding. Four fathers gone. Will they dream
tonight? This is not a nice dream, Abraham thinks, walking silently by Isaac.
Maya Wahrman is Program Assistant for Forced Migration in the Office of Religious Life at Princeton University.