Poetry by Maria Ibarra-Frayre

Photo Credit: Tina Shull

#### **Papers?**

I have thousands of them,
Tucked in and out of notebooks,
Detailing the coldness of shackles
Around your ankles,
And handcuffs tied to swollen wrists

Papers, salty with children’s tears
And sweat of fathers and mothers gripping tightly
To tiny hands that would matter
More if they were white

I have all of them,
Describing the shame of how easy it is to forget
The face of someone you love
When they are miles away from you,

Papers echoing
How much it hurts to hear
My own mother say “at least we are still healthy….”

I am afraid of all illnesses.
I don’t want to just be okay,
I don’t want to pray that nothing will separate us
And I don’t want to keep documenting
In paper after paper the
Heartaches of torn families,
And broken souls

Papers? I have papers,
But not the ones they want to read.

Translating for my mom

At 11, I didn’t understand
The shame that comes from
Having a child navigate
Transactions for you
Only that I was proud that my mother
Could rely on me.
Could have me switch back and forth
Between English and Spanish
Faster than her hands could
Flip through her ESL dictionary
Yes, I’m sure she was proud too,
But only as proud as someone with a nursing
Degree can be
While cleaning houses
In a foreign country
In order to survive.


I stumbled over the words on the phone
ICE…picked up… 2 people… don’t know
… where to start looking
… gone… taken
At least the person on the phone is pleasant
His voice sounds like he has done this over
And over
On the inside I’m shaking
The government disappeared
Two people
Two people with lives
And families
Two people were swallowed up
By the system and misplaced
Who knows where
I can’t find them
The voice on the phone says they could be
There are hundreds of detainment centers
In the U.S.
Grand Rapids, Toledo, Monroe… the list goes on
He gives me the phone number
To another office
I scribble without registering
What he is saying
All I can think of is that the
U.S. government disappears people
My people
Swallows them up
Swallows them whole

***Maria G. Ibarra-Frayre**** has completed her MSW at the University of Michigan, and now works as social worker and community organizer in Ypsilanti, Michigan.*

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