by Alexia Vasquez, from the book Hustlin’ Hermanas (2016)

Being a DREAMer
means never sleeping in,

having side jobs and staying double shifts,
(all these cereal crumbs and
we’re always out of milk),

all while having an exam
on the same week.

It means all those countless
times that we needed help, but my
father didn’t want it,

insisting we’re not victims or
criminals like those
drug addicts.

It means humiliation
and risks of separation.

It means not being good enough
to be worthy of a title as
simple as human.

Parasites and leeches they
scream to television screens
and internet debates.

But it’s okay because it’s not racist, right?

I’m still trying to convince myself that it’s okay,
but we’re not at the jungle gym fighting over swings.

We are in the real world
where bullying was to be outgrown
with time and age,but I still don’t feel as if
anything has really changed
since high school.

I’ve been assaulted sexually
at a public place and if
I screamed I would
lose this race.

The clocks keep moving and
days go by, but
I find myself frozen

for just a simple line drawn in the desert.

I still remember I came out as undocumented
to an old friend.

I had told him what I had
been through and what
I was fighting for,

how I got here
and why I wanted to stay.

His reply was I’ve heard worse
stories than yours,
as if that was the only story I had,
as if that was the only story I am.

As if I should feel different
because someone else had
it worse
and as if he could comfort
me with that shitty “compassion” of his
when I had the courage to
reveal a secret to him,

a secret I had
been told to keep
since I was small.

I’m all grown up and all
I can say is that nothing has
really changed. And if there is a
hope worth hoping for,
then I’m placing all my bets on

my family
and my friends
and everyone here who
cheers us on.

This one’s for the English
teachers that helped us
use our voice on paper.

This one’s for those who’ve
had it worse or better than me
because they all matter to me
in the same way I matter to myself.

This one’s for the idiots
I overhear at restaurants
who think we have it so easy,

and the math teacher I had
who talked about our status
like it was a punchline to a joke.

This one’s for the last laugh I’ll
be having because we are
better at math than you
citizens will ever be.

And this one is to this piece of
paper that might get me
farther than I had expected.

This one is to the fighters,
to the DREAMers like me.

And just as a Mexican woman
can’t speak for Mexico,
I cannot speak for all DREAMers.

We are all humans
and we are all individuals.

We are all stories.
We are all struggles.

We fight every day
and barely

a sound.