My Cousin Wants to Shoot Mexicans
By Jackie Simmons

She told me so.
Me, and 271 of her closest friends on Facebook.

I don’t want to ever be accused
of being a bad journalist, poet, or human being
so I will quote her post verbatim:

“If you cross the North Korean border illegally,
you get 12 years hard labor.
If you cross the Afghanistan border illegally,
you get shot.
If you cross the U.S. border illegally you get: a job,
a drivers license, a place to live, housing benefit,
health care, education, child benefit,
tax-free business for 7 years.
Put this in your status if you agree…………..
No wonder we are a country in debt!!!!”

She is from the German side of my family.

I can’t help but think
that this is how
the Nazi propaganda machine
won over the mindless masses.
I can’t help but think
of how lovely
deep, dark Mexican skin
would be stretched over a lamp shade,
diffusing the light.


Turn it off.

I don’t ever want to be accused
of psychosis or stereotyping
or racism, so I hurry over to the laptop,
place both hands on the keyboard
& type a reply.

I remind her of the Mexican-American war,
in which 55% of Mexico’s land
was taken in the name of
colonial expansionism
& I feel a blush rise over
my high cheekbones, a gift
from my Penobscot Indian ancestors.

I remind her of California gold
& Texas oil, of NAFTA,
of subsistence farmers starving &
my Irish blood boils
as I think of my ancestors
and their migration
after the potato famine.

She accuses me of being a liberal.
Tells me the “facts”
from the no-spin zone:

In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminal gangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States  and the security of its people.
–2008 Republican Party Presidential Platform

How many Mexican-American
terrorists can you name?
What was it that made your
immigrant ancestors “legal”?

I don’t ever want to be accused
of not liberally distributing water
to someone who’s thirsty
or of not helping a lost child
to find their parents.

She says liberals always take
cheap shots.

I suppose it’s okay for someone
to shoot off their mouths
as long as they don’t kill anyone.

Jesús Rivera Cota was shot in the back of the head by a Border Patrol agent when the truck in which he was a passenger drove by the officer in an attempt to return to Mexico in May 2005.

I see about six Mexican men
doing the work of a dozen.
They are building stone walls
for my suburban neighbors.
They wear long sleeves
in the hot sun
since they can’t afford sunscreen.
They heave heavy stones,
one upon the other,
for hours on end.
They are not allowed
to use the bathroom of
the house they are working at.
They are not offered any water.
Their pay is below minimum wage,
and they are uninsured.
They send what little they can
to their families back home,
in hope that their loved ones will survive—
actually seeing them again
may be too much to hope for.
Their “housing benefit” is
an overcrowded, overheated van.

They build stone walls.
      They are afraid.
They build stone walls.
      They are desperate.
They build stone walls.
      They are lonely.
They build stone walls.
      They are worried.
They build stone walls.

They build stone walls.

That is their reward
for successfully crossing the border.

Jackie Simmons been performing poetry, mostly in New York and Connecticut, since 1995. Her work has appeared in RealPoetik, Poetz, Half Drunk Muse, Purple Fiction, Amaze: A Cinquain Journal and other literary mags. She is pursuing an MA in English Literature at Mercy College, but learned more about poetry from lurking around the Lower East Side than in any classroom. Her first book, Scenes from the Seedy Underbelly of Suburbia, published by Stairwell Books, is due to be released this fall. This poem was inspired by the book, Trails of Hope and Terror: Testimonies on Immigration by Miguel A. de la Torre, along with what the author has personally witnessed. Italicized lines in this poem are quotes from Torre’s book.