As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Alejandro Jimenez – Spoken Word

Listen to Alejandro read Juana’s Poem

Juana’s Poem 

On July 3rd 2008 in Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee Juana Villegas was pulled-over for reasons that were never explained to her. She is undocumented, 9 months pregnant, and had her kids in the back seat. She was arrested for driving without a license and for not being able to show proof of insurance. She spent 6 days in jail.

Juana wonders if her children
Ever made it back to her husband,
If they have been fed,
If they made it to school on time,
She uses her cheeks to collect tears
Dips her fingertips in them
Then proceeds to paint kisses on her palm
Closes her eyes and blows them
Just like she does every morning
Before her children enter the school building
But today her kisses bump into walls
Crack wings like broken kites
They fell short of their destination
She wishes messenger pigeons can carry her message
But she doesn’t want to burden their flight
she prays and hopes that at least this time
God is actually listening

Last night she dreamt of family outings, picnics, home cooking, and school concerts
She loves hearing her children sing
Tonight—She will imitate xochipilli, the Aztec goddess of music
And will sing her children’s lullabies
She will dream of being awaken by her little one’s kiss

She doesn’t know how to speak English
She didn’t know how to tell the guard that her water broke
She just pulled her pants down
Guard calls ambulance
Lays her on ambulance bed
Shackles her feet
Cuffs her hands
As she tossed and turned
The sirens made perfect symphony
With the echoes coming out of her throat
The clinking of shackles made a perfect background noise
This is how a broken system likes to make music
They arrive to the hospital
Switch beds
This leg is shackled to the bed
This hand cuffed to the bed

Bringing life to this world is supposed to be beautiful not degrading

Her screams bounced of walls
Fractured windows
Paint new meaning to the word humanity
Handcuff braids a new bracelet on to her wrist
Gives juana a new birth mark
As the nurses plea for her release
The guard, in her unapologetic voice, answers ‘it is my job to make sure she doesn’t escape’

We, as immigrants, have never asked for anything more than the right to live!

Juana was able to hold her son for two hours before she was sent back to jail
She hasn’t seen or held him in two days

For a mother, you know how important that is

She will not get to bury his placenta underneath fruit trees
Will not be able to tuck his umbilical cord into a perfect pouch for good luck
She fears he may not have any
She fears la llorona may come to claim him

Tell me, what is juana suppose to see when she looks at her baby’s smile?
The splendor of life?
Or jagged edges of broken dreams?

She will get to hold her son again
She is free to go,
She is free to go after finding out
That in Tennessee
Driving without a driver’s license and not being able to show proof of insurance
Is only worthy of 3 things:
a citation,
plus court fees,
and a $10 ticket.

(Currently, in 33 states across the country, pregnant inmates, including women being held exclusively for immigration-related offenses, can be shackled to their hospital beds during the birthing process)

*     *     *

alejandro jimenez head shotAlejandro Jimenez is a spokenword/performance poet, avid distance runner and soccer fanatic from Colima, Mexico.  Arriving in the United States as an undocumented immigrant and working as a farm worker for over 10 years in Oregon, he now resides in Denver, CO; and is a happy high school librarian. Given his experiences as an immigrant, indigenous man, and constantly living in the borderlands; he is a firm believer that words can transform, heal, and take you to places never thought imaginable. Alejandro understands the power of words and the liberation of speaking for oneself instead of being spoken for.

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