I Say Nothing

I’m sipping cola from my almost empty can

Mommy and I shared it at first

But then she said I could finish it.

It is hot inside the bus but we cannot get off

Not yet…. We must reach the good place

Where no one will shoot us for not putting

Our hands up fast enough– That’s what she says.

And there will be candy, and hotdogs, and burgers

And school to attend with new friends

I will have a school bag with books and notebooks

And sharpened pencils lined up in my geometry box

Sundays will be for shopping and a pizza lunch

Like they show on TV and in the movies.


There’s a big man asking for papers up front

We not have no papers”– mommy whispers to me

But I’m confused… We have lots of paper–

Paper napkins– Does that count? She kisses my forehead

And pulls me closer, as she repeats her sixth ‘Hail Mary’

Don’t say nothing,” she tells me so I stay quiet

When the policeman comes and says–“Passports please

and then to get off the bus…  Is it the good place yet?

Can it be? But everything is dark and dusty

And it smells like something died in here…


Don’t say nothing,” mommy says again as she smiles

And fumbles to sound American but it’s no good

I start to giggle and the policeman smiles at me

He thinks mommy is funny too…

Please no send us back…” Mommy begs him

He doesn’t answer her… not immediately.

Hey bud, do you want some candy?” He asks me.

I nod vigorously and ask if I can have a hotdog too.

Of course,” he laughs… “And a shower and a bed.


Don’t say nothing,” Mommy says brokenly

As they put handcuffs on her like they do to bad people.

They take her away…. I scream for her to come back

There is a mistake… I plead with the policeman

But I’m just lifted onto his shoulders, kicking and crying

And carried away into the grey building with no windows


I say nothing not ever–  even when I’m scared

They watch us all the time like we’re bad too

like criminals…. like our mommies and daddies

They never smile no more and there’s no candy

And no warmth under these tin foil blankets that smell

of salt from someone’s tears or maybe

it’s just the chemical that was used to treat it

so we can pretend it’s a real blanket in a hostel

and not a sick game of pretend in a real prison

It makes my eyes water but I say nothing…

They won’t listen, cause I don’t have no papers.

I’m collecting every scrap now– from the toilet, the table,

Even the bits from the warden’s cigarette box

So that when I have enough, they will let us go…

Papers don’t say nothing either but they’re heard.





Note: Cover Image Courtesy- Mother Jones Magazine


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