Migrant Displacement

He broke down in prison
Sobbing his dad left when he was little, his mom more recently
He did not have a home to go back to
And perhaps, that’s partly why he was ensnared in the captivity
Of modern-day Gestapo

It cut through my core,
Teared at my flesh
Blood poured
My façade of being an attorney,
I felt deeply the pain of wounds that have never healed.

Migrant displacement is real
I feel it daily
I don’t have a home
To call my own,
I just have to work
On improving the home of those who took mine from me.

But this time it will be different
I told him I’ll build him a home
Brick by brick,
people by people,
I’ll build him a community,
And we did.

Someday, maybe I’ll build myself a home
That isn’t just in the warm embrace of
undocumented people
That isn’t just in the collective pain and trauma
of our community
But a place we can call my own
Without papers, without fear.

Fiji Ghazals and Minority Writers

a process of articulating identity,
a substance begging inquiry
a practice of queer desires subjugated as perverse,
an action by the marginal migrant to challenge the dominant universe,
an intervention in the national historical archive


She swings to and fro: identity to icon, and back. Her lies.
She pumps her feet caste to caste blue skying with friends.

Girmitya, a noble mask of oneself, the collective memory.
The other portrait a tracery, the overseer’s whips’ lines: doubts, fears.

I was eleven when I got married and came here. In Nasavu, I stayed
for three or four years. Sometimes I liked it. Sometimes I did not.

I have to stay with my husband even if I have difficulties,
I rati, rati. I had a baby girl, a child—I had them every three years.

Language? the teacher says, “the lingua franca here is Fiji-Hindi
We try for a coherent discourse”. She says that. We call it Fiji-bat.

— Kuldip Gill

Dr. Kuldip Gill was a Sikh-Indian poet who did her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia as a mature student, graduating at the age of 54 in 1988. She did her anthropology field work in examining health care practices of Fiji-Indian women and she was a vocal immigrant rights advocate.

I’m usually not receptive to academics from India(!) writing poetry about the experiences of Fiji-Indians in the indenture system. I would much rather hear the voices of those who actually experienced the pain and trauma of 20th century slavery but I also appreciate Dr. Gill and what she has to say about minority writers and silencing from both the dominant culture and our own communities:

The anxieties that minority writers feel as authors are sometimes created by the values and beliefs of readers in their own ethnic or religious group, and not just by the dominant group in the societies they have migrated to. Freedom of expression doesn’t necessarily mean that writers can write anything they like, oblivious to the undercurrents that exist within the social, political and cultural life of their ethnicity. Most writers are aware that their work might offend some people some of the time, but for minority writers, the struggle between poetic self-expression and self-silencing has had, and continues to have, cultural implications for many of us. My socialization as a woman raised in the Sikh culture has made me acutely conscious of what I say, or write. When I was a child, my mother’s frown, her stare of disbelief if I said something she didn’t approve of or if I talked too much, or my father’s frown—all silenced me. At times my parents showed me what not to do by negative example; relating a story of someone else’s daughter who wasn’t very wise, and what happened to her, was usually very instructive. My parents taught me what many other women learn: the fine art of self-silencing. Much later, in academia, that upbringing, along with the demands of “objective” western science, kept me from writing anything of a personal or emotional nature. It wasn’t until I began to write poetry that I changed my practice to one where freedom of personal emotional expression became important to me and my work.

She’s right — the silencing starts early in our homes and it continues throughout much of our lives. We have to work actively against self-censorship and aim to write as freely as possible. You aren’t any less South Asian if your characters are only white and not any less American if you only like watching Bollywood movies.

In These Waiting Rooms of History – The DREAM of U

Dream Act Now

i wait for you in this caged room
we’ve never met and yet
[you feel familiar
i feel like i’ve known you before]

shadows mill past me
moving slowly, drudging and digging
futures ploughed within these timeless walls
you see me waiting and yet
[i can’t get to you,
i feel stationary much like before]

what is this feeling
fluid and fragmented
but immobile by design
so close and yet so far
[you slip away again
i feel betrayed, more than before]

i tell myself that i believe in you
i tell others to understand you
[i truly do believe in you,
in the DREAMs of you]


October 24, 2007. That is the date of the stamp on our Dreams Deferred.

Categorically denied even before debate, subjected to another indefinite wait, deferred dreams have a crippling effect on morales and ambitions.

20 million — that is the estimated number of us all over the world. Picked and tucked into the battle for our lives–Sorry, you don’t get guns and armor. Thrown into the deep end of the ocean so swim or you will drown–Sorry, no swimming lessons available. Underprivileged and underclass–sorry, no financial aid available. Illegal in our homes, legal away from our land–sorry no relief available.

Like the farmer that waits for the drought to end, like the mother that eagerly waits the birth of her child, like the student that cannot wait to turn 18 and gain ‘freedom,’ like the many American people who can see no further than ‘change’ with a new Administration, we too have been in for a long haul, a long stay in these waiting rooms of history

To DREAMers across America — I know this wait is the hardest time. I know life in limbo is harsh like life in a prison, only you have committed no crime. But remember, we have the power to make this wait productive, to take this time as a test–a character-building exercise– and to end this wait. Take each defeat as a learning lesson, as a challenge to do better and get better till you beat every test.

Do not despair. Do not be afraid. Do not give up. Stay true to your DREAMs.

L is for Liminal – DREAM poem

I am paperless,
A refugee in my own land, homeless
Freeze-framed and lifeless,
In-limbo, my existence timeless
But never fear, certainly not peerless

In the waiting rooms of history,
A growing community
Sharing and caring,
Joking, laughing, ribbing, riling.
But never despairing
We are strong, kind and capable
Our DREAMs quite inevitable

They want to punish, banish and vanish
guilt us for crimes we have not commited, What rubbish?
their vile hate speech so Outlandish
Try as they might to tarnish and diminish
We shall try harder to establish and accomplish.

We shall become doctors and lawyers,
engineers and teachers,
managers and leaders,
movers and shakers.

You STILL say Illegal is illegal?
I say your ignorance is abysmal.

SPEAK out – Immigration Control – Emerging Police State

The progressive media is finally paying more attention to the emerging police state in light of immigration crackdowns in Postville, Iowa and the Washington Post report on the (mis)treatment of immigrant detainees. Joshua Holland provides a good summation in his article of the actions carried out by the enforcers of immigration law, actions that were in violation of worker’s constitutional rights and due process of law:

Enforcement on Steroids: Homeland Security’s Emerging Immigration Police State (Part I)

Some would call it a victory for law and order. But a closer look at the showy example of “getting tough on illegals” offers some insight into what immigration restrictionists are really asking for when they call for more immigration enforcement…some of the detained workers are victims of crimes by Agriprocessors, Inc., which may entitle them to a visa, and accuses the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of arbitrary and indefinite detention and violating the workers’ constitutional rights…in the overwhelming majority of these raids — 98 percent, according to the Washington Post — the only people to pay any penalty are poor people trying to earn a substandard wage working in America’s growing unregulated economy.

The emerging migrant-military complex overshadowed by rampant human rights abuses and disregard for the law offers us a great offensive argument in the fight for migrant rights. Anyone arguing against the rights of undocumented immigrants or the need to legalize them with the “law, order and sovereignty” spill should surrender and admit their faulty rhetoric. We cannot continue to uphold the law SELECTIVELY for workers and employers, immigrants and elected officials. We cannot restore order by inciting chaos and terror in our migrant communities. And our sovereignty is not threatened by immigration–legal or illegal. It is threatened by cultivating a police state to restore legitimacy for otherwise illegitimate actions, while profiting and strengthening the iron fist in the name of upholding ‘THE LAW’ which we continue to break.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller