Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Falling in Love, Living a Life in America

MY poem “Seeking Home” was, in a way, inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca's “Poeta en Nueva York,” or poems he wrote while in the US in early 1930s, plus the work of revered Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan. A part of my poem goes:

… I seek comfort in
many open doors that remain close
even as I am freely welcomed in.
Love fails to communicate
in a borrowed language
that seems to grow more strange
in each mumbling of sorrow
or joy; words that bounce back
like ten-minute autumn rain
that dry down like cheap vodka
on chapped lips, hot clinches stolen
in between hours-rendered,

          The excruciating need to belong, to love like the way we've ever known before we sailed away from home, screams from within. We try to find room for such a huge longing for love and so we buy into the culture—a culture that is close yet so distant—and then we end up empty because of the blunt, naked fact that vacuums within aren't filled by fillings that don't speak of the spirit that we've known. On a more blatant way, can we imagine the many illegal immigrants who fell in love and allow that heart to stay suspended on midair—since love is not real without a green card? Those people who had to numb the craving for a tangible touch that stays? Those people who had to sell their soul for a piece of paper called visa? So they can live normal lives—minimum wage, a tiny room with empty walls, a beat up sedan, minimum-plan credit card, or just to stride into a bar for beer and not being eyed with indifference or suspicion? And what goes on in the mind of those who say “I love you” in 3-minute marriage in a Las Vegas drive-in chapel because that's what it takes to be “normal”?
          This is an immigrant's pain that America's heart should fit in. The Great American Dream. It is not a dream—it is just a job that pays for few dollars sent to waiting families back home, a box filled with Spams and Campbell Soups and a Goodwill sweater. The journey is not a dream—it is love that is said from the depths of one's heart and not lose it because the other guy has the dream more secured with an AmEx card and health insurance. The Dream is not the Statue of Liberty or Disneyland or a beach house in Big Sur or an SUV with built-in wi-fi. The dream is the freedom to say it because we feel it as an individual truth, the freedom to pursue happiness as a human right, the freedom to worship a god irrelevant of shape and color and language, and the freedom to love and keep it because it is personal and intimate and exclusive...
         Hence, “Seeking Home” comes in little snippets of joy—a kiss from a child after a Dollar Tree gift, a hug after a recitation of a poem in a downtown cafe, a good hot meal on winter, and a song that reminds of a past, a memory, that says, “I was there, I was complete—until my pieces slipped into a ship and sailed away...” At least, that memory offers hope.
         The title of Carlos Bulosan's novel was “America is in the Heart.” I never knew what that meant after reading the book. Until I felt it myself. America, life—like love, it's all in the heart... 

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