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I Too Am Singing America >> jj méndez

January 18, 2012

by jj méndez

 

As I scrub your dishes, pots and pans

With skin-piercing detergents in the greasy

Kitchens of your restaurants, hotels and grand chalets

I too am singing, America!

 

As I clean your lawns, parks and highways

In brazen heat and bone-chilling winds

And make you proud of your streets and railroads

I too am singing, America!

 

As I harvest your bounty under the scorching sun

In the bosom of your fertile fields while

Breathing pesticides that permeate your fruited land

I too am singing, America!

 

As I tile your floors and tar your roofs

And paint your walls with lead-filled hues

While my limbs grow numb and arthritic

I too am singing, America!

 

As I fine-tune and lubricate your gas-guzzling SUVs

Hand-wash and caress your sedans with the finest wax

My aching back and joints guarantee your gleaming cars

I too am singing, America!

 

As I count and assemble your disposable widgets and gadgets

Under artificial light and sweltering heat and floating ashes

Inhaling the rancid indoor air of your sweatshops and factories

I too am singing, America!

 

As I splinter the veins of your mines in search of precious metals

In the cavernous bowels of your majestic mountain ranges

Taxing my skin and lungs inhaling nauseating dust and gases

I too am singing, America!

 

As I care for your prolific poultry and inbred cattle

In the viscera of your prodigious farms and ranches

Surrounded by dusty silos, sloshing waste and squalor

I too am singing, America!

 

As I march into your battlefields and global confrontations

And leave the indelible stain of my blood in your trenches

To uphold the inalienable rights given by your Constitution

I too am singing, America!

 

As I toil proudly in 187 human hues and SB1070 tones

Interlacing the legacy of my ancestry, I bestow on thee

The transcendency of La Raza Cósmica’s genome

Anticipating the day you become a rightful part of me…

 

I too am singing, America!

 

 

My name is Joel Mendez. I was born in Texas, raised between migrant trips to the ‘norte,’ and finally came of age in the streets of ChiTown. By choice, I was literally left behind by my hard-working family who wanted to continue living the cycle of migrant/seasonal work (which they loved so much). I finished raising and educating myself in the Windy City’s public schools and eventually graduated from the University of Illinois. Currently, I am a high school mathematics educator (fancy title for math teacher) and continue surviving in suburbia as I continue to make my annual visits to the old neighborhood where I get my inspiration to write poetry and brief essays (none published).

In light of the current wave (again) of hatred of all things Mexican, I share this poem in which I attempt to honor the contribution of Mexicanos (de aqui y del otro lado) in building and maintaining our ungrateful nation. It started out as a response to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” and Langston Hughes’ ‘I Too.‘ Upon reading their respective poems on the subject, I felt a Chicano response was long overdue… Hope you like it.
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