Sunday, February 28, 2016

The "Outsider" and a poem, "Immigration"

      Outsider, Stranger, Foreigner..  A stranger comes to town- this is a standard plot line for films and stories alike.  In my own writing, I often have a character who is standing outside, looking into the brightly lit windows of a house, simply observing but never part of what appears to be a warm, happy place. 
      What makes one an outsider?  I have a friend who despite growing up in and inhabiting a middle class milieu confessed she's felt like a refugee her entire life. How did that happen? 
     For many years my own feelings of being an outsider carried a touch of resentment. Another friend commented that I didn't look any different from him and therefore, couldn't be different.  My response was  I grew up speaking a different language, eating different food, and never quite understanding all the rules of the world outside my home.   But yes, I look like I do fit in. 
      These days I listen to the drawl around me and realize, just as if I were in a foreign country, I am an outsider here in the South.  I don't have the same history, the same connection to the red earth or the sad past.  Surprisingly enough, I don't have that sensation when I'm the minority on all the buses and trains I take.  I have the sense all of us are in the same day to day struggle. Perhaps I  have a privilege of race, but not of sex or social class.
     Is that still important in America?  Judging from the election campaign, race, sex, and social class are bigger than ever and most likely, will determine the outcome. 

Here's one of my poems on the theme. 



I come to Bilbao in self-exile,

no romance circa Paris 1930.

I am at my  best

in new cities.

Smokestacks, black suits,

men on every corner staring

across the river

the city demands

to span time, give meaning.


The faces of unsettled conflicts

here in the modern dream

of a homeland.

The farm floats in the distance,

the place in all our pasts

competes with the cave,

from which we emerged,

to the weak sunlight

of a winter.


I return

with the accent

of a stranger

Circle completed,

You came here,

I go there

But not so close

I can´t breathe.

I choose a strong tongue

that shakes,

where the stranger

who arrived through centuries,

mixed and forgotten,

peers through blue eyes

in the marketplace.