I Am Northamerican

Once I knew who I was;

I was myself moving through the world

like thoughts stirring within a body.

México, you were my body then:

your sun and moon,

my eyes;

your streets of earth and tile,

my legs;

the generosity of your people,

my arms;

my heart,

your indigenous ways engraved

in unassuming faces of clay

and volcanic stone.

And long after I left

to become nothing more

than another figure

in the profit margin

of U.S. companies,

I believed I still knew

who I was,

though all I thought I had

I didn’t have at all,

not a home,

not a people,

for I am neither Mexican nor gringo,

nor European nor indio,

nor African nor Asian

nor anything less

than the sum of these parts.

I am Northamerican.

Nations war and embrace each other inside me.

I am heady jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythm,

Funkadelic and Chopin,

Pre-Columbian and Renaissance,

an exile, a dreamer,

a refugee.

I am the ingenuity that bore pyramids and temples,

the strength that forged railroads and cities,

the dead that served as collateral

for cheap harvests, textiles, steel and coal.

I am the restlessness of the barrios,

the wisdom of those intimate with the land;

I am stories recounted

from fire pit to sagging porch

on sweet, lazy summer nights;

blood of dragon and sundancer,

elder, warrior and starched collar,

fisherman, healer,

high heels and agile feet;

spray paint, motorcycle jacket

and soft bare breasts;

rituals of sage and routine appointment books,

the child renewed in the hearts of lovers.

My intellect was shaped by thoughts borne of many languages.

My rage incited by those who would silence them.

Mine are the eyes of a hungry woman

with no roof under which to cry;

the hardened stare of an eight-year-old

in a scholastic holding cell.

I am Northamerican,

for home is wherever we’ve chosen

to draw the battle line.

And I won’t stop fighting,

not even come the day

I can say I’m Northamerican

with the pride of a woman

who has with her own hands

built her first house,

and know that by this triumph

I’ve earned the right

to reclaim

as my country

the people of the world.

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