Kairos 20.1


Amy Briseño’s poem, “If I Am What You Teach Me”

If I Am What You Teach Me

If I am what you teach me,
then I am misunderstanding an ignorance to the highest degree.
I am textbooks of a single history
with a misguided interpretation
and only one side to the story.
If we are what you teach us,
then we are soldiers in the millions
with knowledge of mass destruction,
set out to take what others need most,
marching on the sons of Germany, Vietnam, and Iraq,
spreading peace through landmines and freedom through genocide.
If this world was what you taught it,
it would be those with sad enough hands to pull triggers,
stepping on those with hearts too noble to even hold guns.
Printed, set by search warrants on false threats of terrorism
printed on endless dirty green paper
in one language,
from one history,
with one point of view.
We are what you teach us,
so teach us from every angle,
not just from the side not marred by bloody footprints.
Teach us what the world looks like
from the barrel end of a gun,
not just what it looks like under the scope of the trigger.
Teach us the sorrow of countless mothers in airport terminals
kissing their sons and daughters goodbye for the very last time,
giving them away to the glory on army strong posters
decorated with smiling heroes
and a suspicious lack
of war and battle and the battlefield background.
Teach us all the languages that ring out across the world,
pleading in unison for help,
drowned out by the thundering cries of
God bless America.
Teach us all of the brave who lost their lives for our freedom,
even those who never have been or will be
on the land that they spilt their blood for.
Teach us how Pearl Harbor is only terrorism
because it happened on our shores
and Nagasaki and Hiroshima is only justice
because it happened on theirs.
Teach us that those countries are only worthy of our help
when we’re the first to reach out.
I am what you teach me,
so don’t spoon feed me the ignorant lies
and the perceptions of your histories
or the sugarcoated murder you call justice.
Teach me,
but not the lies printed in your textbooks.
If you should teach me anything,
teach me the truth.


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.



Zack Taylor’s poem, “You Are Poetry”

You Are Poetry

Pulling and pushing my secrets and insecurities out of my mouth with her tongue
Forming words while she grasped my throat and then flicked her wrist
Poetry—your many masked emotions. You Multiracial Queen. What a fascinated lover.
Come alive to me. Come make sense with me.
Poetry—come make love with me, or let's go make the contradiction.

Poetry—the woman who was angelic in body language, voice, and sincerity
Was not afraid to use her words in twists and turns to wrap your head
Who used her mouths and tricks to blow minds not heads
The woman who wasn’t afraid of love ’cause her vocabulary would always love her back instead
Tease me with kisses but never pucker those lips.
Poetry—come make me a gentleman.

She made eye contact while making a wise laugh.
She still knew how to make her heels clap and fingers snap.
She’s radical, like math equations and her do or die decisions
May have not been the coolest girl at school, but was the baddest bitch in my eyes.
She kept the old school glamour with that turn of the century revolution talk,
Whose mouth did a thousand protest walks with every word she talked
Poetry—don’t make me shy of a lover as you teach me the rights and wrongs,
Or to make a hundred poems written about wrongs
But to not be afraid to smile and find love in all these written songs.

Poetry—a role model whose nerves of steel lasted through surroundings fickle like shifting winds
Whose path was curved and just as jagged, whose cards were dealt the blow, and the die landing on crooked faces and edges... she smiles.
Who's fought for liberation, love, and laughter... and now she’s laughing
Poetry—teach me how to see the world’s imperfections and all its beauty
Come make all my imperfections all my beauty

Pushing and pulling on the strings of the heart as she cupped my brain with her fingertips
Poetry didn’t choose her words carefully
Giving words their definitions, with every pronunciation a new enunciation.
Po—et—ry. She’s sexy. But never will she let herself be categorized as just... sexy.

Girl, you're so much more.
Girl, you are Poetry.


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.



José Martinez’s poem, “The Ten Commandments of Being Mexican”

The Ten Commandments of Being Mexican

Number one:
Thou shall eat tortillas and frijoles with every meal
even on Thanksgiving
because you know your damn turkey
could always use a little bit of salsa.
Number two:
Always respect your nana, abuela, abuelita
because you know she’ll beat your ass, cabrón,
even if she’s under five feet tall.
Number three:
Never let anyone make fun of your shoes
just because you got them at the swap meet.
They don’t understand that churros, kettle corn, bargains, and good deals
a random guy selling his chickens is
a cool place to spend your Friday and Saturday nights.
Number four:
Follow the path of no white man
because we are our own race
And we are our own people
And this is our revolution
And the day that the minority becomes the majority
is closer than we think
and no ignorant, unfair, inhumane law will get in our way.
Number five:
Look in your mother’s eyes and swear to her
that you will make it in this world
and you will make something of yourself
And every damn burrito she rolled
Every damn taco she served
Every damn restaurant she worked in
Every damn insult spit in her face by bosses
who abused the fact that she had no papers
Every damn trailer park,
every damn sleepless night
counting numbers that will never make ends meet
making sure we had the damn tortilla on our stomachs,
would not go to waste.
Because that one tortilla in my stomach has become a fire
and I will redeem myself, Mom,
I will redeem myself,
and every sacrifice you made for us will not go to waste
Number six:
Don’t forget where you came from
Whether you’re a Dominguez, García, Lopez, Montaño, Terrazas
Vásquez, Moreno, Cruz, Martínez, or any other name
Don’t forget where you came from
Number seven:
French is not the language of love.
lo siento por los que nunca van a saber lo caliente que es el lenguaje
español, el amor y hermoso que son las palabras que corren por mis venas hispanas
Numero ocho:
Can you hear the sweat dripping,
Dripping puddles of generations into the dirt
Evaporating in the hot desert sun
like we never existed
the eighth commandment is the sound of his knees
dropping to the ground
jagged pebbles of the American Dream stabbing into his knees
lost somewhere between Rio Rico
and a family praying to the Virgen De Guadalupe
to protect him from the green monsters
that guard the land of opportunity
not knowing that God is no longer the only one that can judge us once
you are in the land of America
Number nine:
Don’t let them take away years of blood, sweat, and tears
Books, classrooms, racial discrimination, what’s next?
Will history repeat itself?
I dare you to try to burn through this calloused skin
The harder it gets, the harder we work,
you say we’re working so we can take your jobs?
Do you know what hard-working Mexican hands taste like?
Try not to choke on your tomatoes.
Number ten:
Always remember that no matter how much soap you use
you’ll always be brown.


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.



Sammy Dominguez and Zack Taylor’s poem, “Boom”


Footsteps falling (falling) in the hallways
Lockers slamming (slamming)
Bells ringing (ringing) in a panic.
Shotguns sound from the throats of classmates,
Shooting out “freak” and “dyke.”
Footsteps falling (falling) in hallways
Lockers slamming (slamming)
Bells ringing (ringing) in a panic
Slurs swung like hammers demolishing any self-pride
I mustered up to show my face at school today
Fucking (fucking) faggot (faggot).
I duck into a bathroom stall
Waiting for the halls to clear
Finally reached my desk as I mend my wounds from their words
But my state of mind is anything but healed
I’m thinking today cold steel could ease my pain.
Today, the jokes were never-ending,
Today, I stopped feeling safe
Today, they keyed “lesbian” into my car,
Today, they spit in my face and told me to wipe off my mascara,
Today, I found death threats in my notebook
Today, I found out that I could fit in a locker,
Today, I wondered,
What do you do with a box of bullets when you only need one?
Raped because they think they can fix me,
Beaten down every time I walk home,
And I can’t even go home
The door is never open for me anymore
My mother always wanted a princess
I’m not the popular jock my father wanted
But all she sees in me is a dragon
And I swear every time he looks at me my own father thinks, “Faggot.”
So why leave a note, when nobody was ever there?
You see, it’s not like I had any true friends.
Harassment helps 28% of LGBT teens drop out of high school.
Nobody even cares about who I am.
Teachers turn a blind eye to homophobic insults in school 97% of the time.
Maybe I deserve every dirty slur.
LGBT teens are four to five times more likely to experience severe depression.
The weight in my hand is nothing compared to the weight in my chest.
There is no place for me.
This world doesn’t want me.
One in four who come out of the closet are tossed into the streets.
So maybe I should just leave.
LGBT teens are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.
I hate everything I am.
Three LGBT teens are killing themselves daily.
Billy Lucas, age 15
Asher Brown, age 13,
Cody Barker, age 17,
Chloe Lacey, age 19
Tyler Clementi, age 18
Samantha Johnson, age 13
Aiyisha Hassan, age 19
Harrison Brown, age 15
Seth Welsh, age 13
Raymond Chase, age 19
Brandon Elizares, age 16
Phillip Parker, age 14
Zach Harrington, age 19
Jamey Rodemeyer, age 14
Jack Reese, age 17
Zack Taylor
Sammy Dominguez
Nothing is more inviting now than shiny steel shaking as it sets against my temple,
I don’t understand why I was born a fuck-up,
Why it had to be me that no one would love,
Why the only thing that shined in my life
Was a hand gun
Falling (falling)
crashing (crashing)
ringing (ringing)
was just another day at school.


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.



Alexia Vazquez performing

I didn’t have to run across the border to know that
as much as I love her,
America does not love me back,
and as much as I want to succeed,
she won’t let me.
I was planted like many sunflower seeds
in the soils of Obregon, Sonora,
and I began to sprout for eight short years.
My father was a migrant farmworker,
Picking onions and grapes like Cesar Chavez.
My mother left her job to take care of three girls
inquietas eramos todas
fighting for toys, food,
anything our distraction caught.
After five months without my father around,
he came back to tell us he was jobless
and wasn’t paid for the work he did.
Not even blooming yet,
I was pulled from my roots
and carried up north of the border.
Held in a dirty old pot,
my mother figured an American diploma
would fit her well with her toilet cleaning job
and a sense of loneliness.
I remember I cried the first day of third grade.
Eyes of all colors followed me
as the teacher’s hand signals grew impatient,
all this for telling me where to sit.
I remember being bullied in middle school by two girls—
one was Macy, the other Francine.
They would laugh when they threw their fists towards me
and watch me flinch.
They would call me names
like “pancha.”
They were both Native American,
of tribes who dance like the fariseos
on the empty sand roads of Sonora.
I remember I was the most difficult to bully
since I didn’t know English.
I would simply study and keep my grades up.
This was your typical everyday American lifestyle,
and I thank my mom for it,
but now that I’m older,
I dream of becoming one of those people,
you know,
the ones you see talking on their Bluetooth,
meeting at Starbucks,
and brag about success.
Do you know what it feels to be labeled “alien?”
Well, do you?
It feels as heavy as the chains hanging from my wrist,
it feels like the weight the slipknot carries every day,
the moment when you’re forced by law to sit next to a sign that says “colored,”
and the only way you can be signified separate is by skin,
and there you are,
watching people evolve before you,
as you sit there like a dog begging for a treat.
Because when 65,000 dreams are denied a year,
there is something wrong,
because sitting in that dirty old pot feels like you’re young forever,
and there is no list for me to sign at the bottom
so that I can grow up and stand
as high as palm trees and petals that reach for Apollo’s hands.
I want to know what more than ten bucks an hour feels like,
I want to know what it feels to get paid without labor
and live a life that isn’t frozen.
I want to be superior,
standing high above you with nothing in my way!
You think this will hurt you
so you pay for smaller cages
and try to scare us with your threats.
Majority rules, honey, but minority counts, too.
Your thoughts are gathered of
fear of pests swarming your home.
The world falls apart as your eyes gleam for only profit
and your doubts relieved solely by blaming the same people
of blood still stained in Vietnam, and Korea, and Iraq, and Afghanistan.
What more will it take to stop history replaying again and again?
When will you realize that these pests eat the mold in your forgotten attics?
I speak English just as well as you do, honey,
and I know you’re afraid of change,
but I am not leaving!


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.



Enrique Garcia performing

Ring, ring, ring.
Did you hear that?
I think it’s freedom calling.
But of course, only a kid born, raised in the slums of humanity
could actually Kodak the feeling or capture this reality.
Sitting in the air currents of probables and if so’s,
living in a culture of Man, get that pussy,
and I got enough money to get those
Chucks, Jordans, Vans,
Chucks, Jordans, Vans,
chucking all this shit from the NY to the problematical cities of Jordan
enough to fill 20,000... Vans.
Nah, look at the African cities deprived,
they’re still alive.
Not because of arising exported goods,
rather swelling gun importing bads.
Now take a look down at the border,
our border, Juárez,
a place baptized in the name of peace, and respect,
now baptized in the blood of murder, drugs, and criminal intent.
We have governors who say they represent the people’s struggle.
I wonder, what struggle,
the struggle of staying up late reading out of a law book,
or the struggle of the evicted notice paper on your door
because you can’t pay the rent for those three children, your loving wife,
the rent of a room that holds a bed that creaks false hope,
and a television that televises the deadly smoke,
your children watching in the lights saying,
“We want liquor, liquor as a fashion,
sex, blunts, drugs, and parties.”
No more food,
food as in faith, religion, cures, education and families.
I have food, but the food of American culture
cheeseburgers fat with politics,
fries greasy with ignorance,
and a large soda filled with lies.
With lies of freedom, freedom
Engulfing my throat.
making me belch ideas of horrible massacres,
racial slurs of African American kids
loving chicken because they were born to eat it,
as if their ancestors were given chicken
right after a hard day of whippings and slappings.
Racial slurs of Latin American kids
loving beans because they were born to eat it,
as if their ancestors were given beans
right after their land and culture were stripped
along with their dreams and streams of young blood.
Liquor cures the left wound by God
who abandoned Brandon when his sister was deported,
by the state, sending her back to
Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, y México.
Liquor makes the wound feel better,
especially when your girlfriend Libby, Liberty,
dumped you for a guy, Uncle Sam’s nephew, Matthew, materialism.
The guy who has rims and Crocs
instead of tims and free curls enslaved in dreadlocks.
And in the prison, the Southside,
I see young youth losing truth
as the crackheads being cracked down
like Egyptian hieroglyphics being translated,
and knocked down.
All this race,
as in race,
by the third ring of Freedom’s call,
it begins, I slowly pick up.
“Where you at?” she says.
“Where you last left me,” I reply.
When I can rest with the slaves and minimum wage workers,
believers, and doubters,
deemed no longer freedom writers but freedom scouters,
I am the United States of America.


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.



Alexia Vazquez, Enrique Garcia, Araceli Montaño, and Zack Taylor performing a group poem

We walk on scorching roads with crooked cracks, leaving marks.
Not as mistakes but as history.
The lessons begin now, so hear us out.
We’ve been molded from calloused hands and muddy fingertips
We come from the beats of time’s momentum
Our history grows from the earth’s core.
Hear our trapped voices beating against your eardrums
In rhythms of cumbia, and
Watch us dance on footprints left by our ancestors
swayed out by those who watch
Because there’s never only one side to a story.
The book opens, and I read myself to sleep at night,
worried because Mom isn’t home yet.
The lack of green in this economy leaves her bedroom empty
and the freezer filled with food I can put in the microwave.
I know it’s not my job,
but the lack of help wanted signs makes me wish I had a 9 to 5.
To keep her near me.
So that someone’s strong hands can lend me strength to fight the earth’s pull.
But now, I hold these chains alone, fighting more than gravity,
My desert-bred skin catches cactus like politicians catch corruption in their hands.
I pull the spines from my palm and bleed with integrity,
bleeding budget-cut-down dreams that I built back up with outlawed history books
and buttons that fell from my mother’s work-shirt into jars she filled with coins,
hoping to change my life.
This all happened in South Tucson,
where they told me I was gonna get my ass beat when I moved there.
In South Tucson, where broken liquor bottles remind you of immigrants’ stories
because that’s how your father came to this country:
drunk off his ass with the American Dream.
Chollas would rip you a new one
and sell you threats like drug exchanges
narcotic narcissism for those who only know
these marijuana streets and cocaine-covered highways.
Because central and north side misjudged their southern sister.
Because central and north side turned a blind eye to the south.
In South Tucson,
where Alcoholics Anonymous stands across from Pima Liquor Stores
to remind you:
Every mistake has a recovery,
Every story has a new chapter.
For every youth voice shouting to a deaf school board
For every dream broken and buried under desert graveyards
For every parched mouth turned up waiting for equality to shout at them:
Wake up!
Nothing is that simple!
We gouge our eyes, crackling knuckles, tightening fists!
So close to the border, and still they think it’s just a line,
as if they know what it takes to get to the other side.
as if they think it’s easy to play hopscotch with fate
and just leave everything behind.
We accept Tucson!
Brown-skinned, light-skinned.
You taste of Mexico and sound like lenguas baja el sol
And as much as you seem to belong elsewhere
You migrated north of the border once
Just like me [repeated down the line]
I never had a single culture,
I never had a story worth acknowledging being white in South Tucson
Being white made me an automatic racist
South Tucson, I never judged you
or believed you were something you weren’t,
so please don’t think I am.
I’m sorry I’m white when all I wanted was to be Mexican.
I’m sorry, Tucson, that you don’t know whether or not you’re another Mexico
Or a secondhand America.
But in South Tucson, but in South Tucson,
before one can stand up to speak, you must sit down and listen
to the history that has been erased.
We are immigrants,
we are poets,
we are undefined,
we don’t rain dance, we bring the rain.
In South Tucson, it is our time to speak
and we expect you to listen.
This poem wasn’t written for competition
But to show that Tucson has sat... and listened…
And spoken.


Background images in this section from photographs and video stills taken by youth and adult allies at various TYPS events.