Sarah Giragosian

is a poet and critic living in Schenectady, NY. She is the author of the poetry collection Queer Fish, a winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize (Dream Horse Press, 2017) and The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming). Her poems have recently appeared in such journals as Ecotone, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, and Denver Quarterly, among others.

Welcome to America,

where the children play
cage to cage.
                          We’ve taken back our country,
my countrymen say from the sunny side
of empire, while mothers in airtight cages do time,
their babies playing mercy in nurseries lined
with steel bars, each day their captors
ho-humming away their nine-to-fives.

                          And when the president,
in another televised scolding,
into the sequined air said,
Over the border, they’re sending explosives!
he meant missives, but it’s all the same
to him, and they are all
                          the same to him.

Some configurations of my mother tongue,
cage that it is, bring such shame.
The myths become muscle memory,
but any Land of the Free,
any opportunity with a deadbolt
is a head game.
                          Immigrant, you know the game’s
rigged, and the bullets on your bones
were never meant to be even,
and the state will have its way
with your body.

Immigrant: hide away your hope
                          with its bubble sheen in your lunch tray
store your soul behind the pellet-
                                                    hard peas, for safekeeping.

I’m afraid to map my heart
in these badlands, this sad land
where they say I belong, meaning
                                      at its root
                                                    to go along with. Let me not

                                                                belong, if this is belonging.