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America, A Tale As Old As Time

Artwork by Fatema Rahaman, staff poet and artist

America is a fairy-tale you'll never wake up from, succumb to

slumber faster than Sleeping Beauty, than Betsy Ross

stitching star after star onto the American flag to conceal the

countless skeletons Washington hides in his closet

that clink, clatter, clang as soon as the dreamers untie

their tarnished wrists, rebuild their shattered spines

that carry generations of grief and dare to

question, “Where did the democracy we

were promised end up?”

Was it consumed by the cracks and crevices covering the sunlit

sidewalk that I trip on at least once each day as I walk home

from school? Did the politicians pluck it away from our

fragile fingers to pack it into the corners of the cookie jar,

chastise us for refusing to become all-assimilated Americans,

“All you have to do is bleach, butcher, break your accent

into shards that no longer spell out immigrant but American,

replace hearths for blazing hellfires to receive a taste of heaven

on your parched tongue,” how can you ask me to dispose

of my roots as if they were Jolly Rancher wrappers just

to bite into the forbidden fruit that America

calls democracy but I call demolition

Here, they pave our roads with racism, replace our trees that

threaten to flourish with skyscrapers that slice our

smog-smeared starlight into slivers that they'll slip into

gossamer goodie bags and gift to countless clusters of

impoverished communities as if to say sorry for all the sapphire

tears you've had to shed, sorry for the way your cobblestones

crumble to the ground like gingerbread, like heaven knows the

golden gates' gumdrop doorknobs can only last for

seven years if they're covered with cellophane to keep out

the fingerprints of the undocumented immigrants,

the ghetto go-getters lest their limbs leak ichor and

eradicate opportunities only available for Americans

even though the flyers pinky-promised us

they were for everyone

They say we should be thankful, be satisfied with slipping

sunny-side-up smiles on our chipped cheeks despite

being screamed at by belligerent bosses behind the scenes of

flawless five-star restaurants and scrambling our

last names into anagrams that spell out “belief” instead of

“broken battlefield of a body” but they forget that we

paved this gilded road, this emerald city was built

by the calloused hands of immigrants that learned that

Uncle Sam won't save you a seat at the dinner table if

you don't have something to give him in return

for all the cookie-cutter commodities, click your

ruby red heels each time you have to remind

yourself that

To be an immigrant is to sink your spindly fingers into

slick soil so you can bury your thousand-year-old

honey-drenched dreams the way Jack buried his

magic beans, climb castles in the clouds at

the expense of chopping the beanstalk

bristling with your roots, watch the way

America reaps the rewards of your labor

done by patchwork-patterned palms they

called a problem, praise picture-perfect

Prince Charmings, Pinocchios,

princesses, but never you

Luna Vallejo is a writer who hails from New York. A New York City Youth Poet Laureate finalist and the editor-in-chief of Neverland Lit, her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and literary magazines such as Kalopsia Lit and Moonflake Press. When she is not writing, you can find her dissecting song lyrics, re-reading her favorite novels, and collecting vinyl records.

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