Papeles / Papers


No tengo papeles.

Así, tengo papeles
En el carro en la silla.
En la casa en la mesa
En el cuarto en la cama.

Papeles de la corte,
Papeles del avogado,
Papeles del estado,
Papeles de la migra.

Papeles que me notan,
Papeles que me representan,
Papeles que me llaman y
Papeles que me dicen ir.

¡Tantos papeles tengo yo!
Una fábrica de papeles,
Un bosque de papeles,
Un montón de papeles, sólo porque

No tengo papeles.



I don’t have papers.

And so I have papers
In the car on the seat,
In the house on the table,
In the bedroom on the bed.

Papers from the court,
Papers from the lawyer,
Papers from the state,
Papers from la migra.

Papers that take note of me,
Papers that represent me,
Papers that summon me and
Papers that tell me to go.

So many papers!
A factory of papers,
A forest of papers,
A mountain of papers, just because

I don’t have papers.

Author’s Note

I live in two languages. As a bicultural individual, I go between Spanish and English all the time.

This particular poem was written after unsuccessful attempts to keep a friend from being deported. I was amazed at how much red tape surrounded his life, and “Papeles” emerged from that observation. I wrote “Papers,” the English version of the poem, shortly after completing “Papeles.”

I have read these poems many times at literary and community events. I think it’s important for people to hear the beautiful language of an ever-growing part of the US population, and to hear about the harmfulness of US immigration policies.

Mariana McDonaldmariana mcdonald’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including poetry in The Anthology of Southern Poets: Georgia, Les Femmes Folles, Fables of the Eco-future, Southern Women’s Review, Sugar Mule, and El Boletín Nacional; and fiction in Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers, and So to Speak.