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Welcome to New York

Photo by Liam Edwards on Unsplash

My city is a glimmering green light my fingers will never be able to touch,

too tired from tracing every crack and crevice on my mother’s chipped

cheeks, from slipping star-spangled smiles on my chapped lips

the second before the camera clicks and the news reporters ask

if I still believe in the American dream and the promise of

having a thousand and one honey-drenched dreams flicker before

my eyes each time I go to sleep, as if I can't see the way the

mayor morphs into Pinocchio, feeds us unfulfilled promises instead

of filling our boroughs' pantries with packages of food, bundles

of blankets, bursts of light fit for fairy-tales, for

happily-ever-afters that every New Yorker

should have but never will

Will our women ever stop being viewed as public property,

as vessels meant to be vandalized, as another x on the calendar that

marks the death of yet another African American killed at the

hands of police officers that pledge allegiance to racism, reap

Eric Garner and George Floyd’s ruby-red bodies across

bustling streets as if they were a reward, something to get

their hands on when their paychecks aren’t enough

If New York is the city that never sleeps, why do we sleep

on homelessness when our city's budget is fit to burst?

Why must we let our cobblestones crumble, our

schools shatter faster than we learned how to

count to three?

When you wish upon a star in a city that never sleeps, you realize

that the Big Apple is just another synonym for forbidden fruit,

watch clusters of immigrants chase after sweet silver linings

stuffed at the bottom of the frost-filled icebox that will

never be meant for them, watch as they rebuild their brittle

backbones that grew weary from living in a fruitless paradise

called home by scrubbing plates and pitchers piled in soiled sinks

until the wineglass glitters and the hot dog grease fades

and the fridge fills with flashy food like in the commercials

where cheeks are plump and Uncle Sam can keep

his paper-mache promises without craving

capital in return

We must make our city into something more than just a broken

battlefield, a burial ground for dreamers, doers, don’t apologize for

the sound of your shattered English, we never thought we’d

have to learn how to silence our symphonic accents to

avoid having our bodies burned alive by blazing hellfires

that erupt from the mouths of pistols hungry for prey

We must fight for our freedom until our limbs are

no longer leftovers but instead, become a

constellation of Lady Liberty’s

endless Eden

Artist Statement:

This piece was written in response to the prompt: if you were to have a conversation with Eric Adams, what would you say? Throughout this piece, I touch upon various issues that New York City faces, including police brutality against African Americans, racism against immigrants, sexual abuse against women, and the loss of various city services due to the cut of the city’s budget. In the first line of my poem, I alluded to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in order to establish a comparison between New York and the green light, a symbol that serves as a representation of the unattainable dreams that live inside us all. I chose to incorporate fairy-tale elements and biblical imagery throughout my poem in order to highlight the way resources are inaccessible for certain groups, like immigrants, and to reflect the timelessness of fairy-tales and the way they mirror events that transpire in our modern day society.

Calls to Action:

Link to The National Urban League, a civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment, equality, and social justice. The National Urban League collaborates at the national and local levels with community leaders, policymakers, and corporate partners to elevate the standards of living for African Americans and other historically underserved groups:

Tips on ways you can combat racism: 

Author Bio:

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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