Un poema de una Chicana perdida

Now that I’ve “survived” (but barely thrived in) graduate school, I found this poem I wrote the first week at McGill University on September 14, 2009 in response to Chickasaw educational activist and elder Eber Hampton’s essay, “Memory Comes Before Knowledge.” I was struck by the following quotation: “The mutilation of human beings in graduate school is a continuation of the mutilation that starts in kindergarten.”

Why am I here? ¿Por qué estoy aquí? Un poema de una Chicana perdida


I deserve to be here

Child of blue-collar laborers,

Pink-collar secretaries

Failed revolutionaries

In retreat

First in my family

To access, trespass

Academic borderlands

Trip-wire fences unexpected

Concealed by pristine lawns

Illegal entry

Tripped on uneven cobbled stones

Plastered over indigenous peoples’ sacred

Cemeteries, ceremonies lost

Underneath “pure” snow

Shoveled by the same people

Mi familia

Haitian Caribbean “security” guards standing

Waiting for rain, conducting bicycle traffic

Guarding buried treasures underneath the Earth

My new found privilege barricading me, marking me

As separate than, invisible to both camps

An intruder, a phony, a petty thief

I can step on scrubbed passageways fragrant with


On my way to class to learn to forget

Now I climb ladders

I proceed laboriously

Will I fall?

The burden is heavy

Sweat blinds my vision

Seeps into my parched mouth already

Silenced by a baleful of white cotton


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