Sunday, January 15, 2017

Poems of Resistance, Power & Resilience – Christine Stoddard

Close up image of a microphone on a stage. The audience that is facing the microphone is blurred, appearing as a myriad of colors (red, white, green, yellow, etc.)
As the incoming administration builds its agenda of attack on marginalized people, on freedom of speech, on the earth itself, poetry will continue to be an essential voice of resistance. Poets will speak out in solidarity, united against hatred, systemic oppression, and violence and for justice, beauty, and community.

In this spirit, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. For the rest of this frightening month, January of 2017, we invite you to send us poems of resistance, power, and resilience.

We will post every poem we receive unless it is offensive (containing language that is derogatory toward marginalized groups, that belittles, uses hurtful stereotypes, etc.). After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to the White House.

For guidelines on how to submit poems for this call, visit the Call for Poems of Resistance, Power & Resilience blog post


Thirty Pounds in Three Months
by Christine Stoddard

On August 8, 2016, all 5’1 of my Salvadoran flesh and bones weighed 115 pounds.
My weight was documented, though I am myself undocumented.
This doctor accepted all patients, including ones whose parents stopped
communicating with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
when she was still in lacquered pigtails, watching Topo Gigio on Saturdays.
The doctor’s office quoted me the same rates any documented person would pay,
but, sometimes, I still wondered if the office manager would call the police to cart
me away in my hospital gown, nalgas flailing in the faces of passersby.
I did not harbor much trust or even hope, given that I was always second-guessing
where to dock my ship next. Was it safe to live here another year without papers?
I worked for an auto repair shop, taking my weekly salary in cash, which my boss
skimmed off the top from overquoted jobs that clueless customers also paid in cash.
But if my boss fired me, where would I work next? Who would hire me without my
papers in order? Who would pay me as well as this seedy little business paid me
every week to keep their office in as tip-top shape as I kept my ship? How would I
feed my son? Would I have to return to El Salvador, which I had not seen since I still
thought Papá Noel was real? Since I was too young to appreciate the lorocos in my
pupusas? These questions were etched in my psyche, as common as asking what the
weather was or if I needed to go to the grocery store. But the news made them
multiple. With each tweet, each meme, each sound bite, I gained half an ounce.
I became less mobile. I sat on the sofa, hugging my son as I scrolled through my
phone as a reflex. In reality, I was barely aware of his presence. I mainly thought of
him when hunger hit me. No, not hunger, simply a need for food. The election
spurred my oral fixation and I had to shove whatever snack, however unappealing
or unnecessary, into my mouth. He said. She said. Back and forth ad nauseam.
On September 8, 2016, all 5’1 of my Salvadoran flesh and bones weighed 125
pounds. I might have noticed if I weren’t so preoccupied. Instead, I boiled more
beans after work and obsessed over the latest immigration scares, as if my fear
could change anything. All that changed was the fit of my clothes, especially pants.
By October 8, 2016, I had to buy new clothes as urgently as I needed to visit the
doctor. That was how I found myself dialing the doctor’s office from the dressing
room of a discount department store. I wept as I spoke to the receptionist.
The doctor could not explain my weight gain. She only asked questions for which I
had no answers. Normally, I had answers to questions, but suspected pirates would
raid my ship at any moment. Surely I could not respond to “Who are you voting for?”
with “I am an illegal alien and cannot vote even though I have lived in this damn
country most of my life—25 years—but that’s how it is because the law is cruel.”
The doctor promised to run a few tests and get back to me. I heard nothing.
By November 8, 2016, I did not recognize myself with 30 extra pounds on my frame.
My face was bloated, my hands were fat. Yet as I watched a map of the U.S.
blush until it glowed red, I knew I wasn’t suffering from cancer or a thyroid
condition. And I knew that it would take me four years to lose the weight,
though I might be slimming down por allá because of the new administration.

(This poem was previously published by Indolent Books)

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