“When They Come for Us on the 7 Train” by Ananda Lima

Ananda Lima


Past the underground tracks, the railroad rises
our eyes adjust to the sun over Jackson Heights
at the platform, the doors slide open and the winter
comes in with the men in their dark uniforms
silence except for the “please
stand clear of the closing doors,” the weight
of their boots sways the car and I raise my hand
towards the pole, but one of the men grabs my
wrist and I feel the cold of his black gloves
against the grooves of my tendons, the cold
crosses my skin, the cold mixes with my blood,
the cold travels in my veins, to my fingertips
to my elbow and my other hand lets go
of my son before the cold reaches him
I say “I’m an American citizen”
the soft tissue in my mouth cracks
with frost, I say it louder
“I’m an American Citizen” and the frozen edges
of the words scratch as they move through my throat
I shout “I’m an American citizen” and reflected
on the man’s visor, I see my face
I think of my son if they take me
I think of my son if they don’t
as he watches me whisper
“I’m an American citizen”
while others are taken
by the men of ice.

from Poets Respond
February 19, 2017


Ananda Lima: “This poem was written as a reaction to news reports of ICE raids taking undocumented immigrants throughout the country, as well as warnings in social media of raids in Queens and cautioning people that the number 7 is no longer safe for undocumented people. As a human being, I am sickened by the hate and targeting of undocumented people. As an immigrant of color, I am also afraid for myself and my family and sometimes end up reminding myself that I am an American citizen to try and cope with my anxiety. Unfortunately, not only does that thought fail to fully reassure me of my safety, but it also makes me ashamed to try to calm myself with my privileges, while more vulnerable immigrants are being targeted. I fear the role of that type of thinking (where the different segments of the population, terrified for themselves, fail to protect those who are more vulnerable) has played and will play in dividing the people, making us weaker and strengthening our oppressors.” (website)

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