This is a poem I wrote back in 2013 that was originally published on this website. However, I felt it is just as timely now as ever.
Yearning to Breathe Free
Not like the formidable frontera that seems to travel in an endless expanse
Marked only by its trails of decay, misery and death
There stands a new, yet strangely familiar figure
Her hands are weathered from holding the torch that beckoned so many to her safe harbors
Yet her feet are firm; she has stood the test of time
Deliverance has made its home at her gates, welcoming strangers with her warm gaze and arms stretched out as if in a warm embrace
Huddled masses relentlessly pounding upon her breast, seeking a place of comfort and rest
But, through the night of standing watch
She was disarmed
With alarming fright
By people supposed to protect her
Land-dwellers. People from the left and the right,
One did not need to look far to the shore to see the abundance of florescent light,
Blindly pressing onward with their backs to the past
Like the Israelites of old forgetting stories of deliverance from the hand of an oppressor
The flame upon her torch slowly became a flicker, and then an ember until it was no more
Her gift of guidance had been cast aside in pursuit of a greater treasure, those who once cried mercy only called out for the “American Dream,” letting their new life be built upon the sweat, blood, and strife of those seeking deliverance of their own
This stolen light was a beacon of hope in a stormy night to the huddled masses that arrived at her feet pleading for freedom, for safety, for rest at the feet of the Virgin, more than just a statue, but a Mother Divine
This Mother of Exiles pleaded for a match, anything, with which to light the charred embers that served to remind the huddled masses what had been before the night… and why she must not give up the fight
From the land cries filled the night sky,
“We do not have enough to share with all of you, so go back to where you came from!”
Perplexed and distraught but never dismayed,
The huddled masses gathered the hand-carved crosses, religious figurines and old story cloths they kept as faint reminders of where they once came as a humble offering to reignite the untamed fires of freedom
Some of those on the shore already jumped away, into the vast abyss between the Lady and the land to return, as if on a pilgrimage to where their forefathers and mothers began
A sacred moment; A holy communion, some might say of meek and powerful reclaiming the stories of old, of the sweat, blood and pain that it took them to reach
A holy communion marked by the strength and sacrifice of a Mother who wouldn’t turn away those who came with hopes and dreams in their scarred hands
The fire is ablaze. The flame has been rekindled.
This light cannot be contained.
Its light spreads to even the farthest corners where traveling familias pray to the Virgen as they cross the Rio Grande, where children sit waiting for a sign of blue sky as visions of life beyond the bars of the refugee camp flash before their eyes, where parents weep asking why they left it all behind to find they were still at the bottom of the heap, where undocumented youth are told they must “get to the back of the line” where no line remains when they committed no crime but must daily endure the shame of being called “illegal,” without a name
Erupting into the night sky, the Mother Divine cries once more like she did at her birth with silent lips, “These tired, weary masses have come to breathe free, leaving their life behind to be crucified with only a vision of what might be. Woe to you who have shown little mercy, little hospitality, and little hope to your own. Your hearts they grew bitter and fear did replace that child-like wonder when you first saw my face. Now you have lived here two, three or four generations long, but I beseech you, I plead you, I beg you, do not forget where you came from
Remember that those weary hands were once your grandfather’s who struggled to provide a humble home laying bricks that would become the foundation for towers so high no one could imagine they could reach up to the sky
Remember that those tired feet were once your mother’s as she stood all night and day enduring the terrifying shrieks of the monstrous machines in a room suppressing her own hopes and dreams, just so her children could finally learn how to breathe, becoming the CEOs of a company she once worked, locked in a tower on the 30th floor sweating away.
Remember that those enduring spirits were once your parents as they labored each day hoping neither for fortune nor fame, but for a chance to give you a vision they never could have seen for themselves. One track laid upon the other through their unrelenting spirit paved the way for a railroad that would be used across the nation, stretching as far as if it were the Golden Gate bridge leading you home
Remember these longing souls were once your fore fathers and mothers willing to lay down their own lives so they could see the day when you would be free, not to further oppress or divide but to join the huddled masses to cry out for something better, for a hopeful future to all who might make their home in a place of better tomorrows than today.
Her last words ring out as a voice of a prophet calling her people back from the wilderness, to a place of unity instead of divide, to a place of courage instead of fear and to a place of hope instead of despair
Shining brighter than ever, her torch still guides those who seek comfort, safety and rest
Like a queen leading a magnificent parade
This procession becomes a triumphant song of divine welcome
For all who may be yearning to breathe free.