Christopher Carmona

Check | Point

idling at Sarita checkpoint     

Anzaldúa in my backseat

dogs with jobs sniff my tires

men in green eyes and tired uniforms wave cars on through

they know only one question

 toughest to answer…

I am leaving what I thought was America

but was really something else

the question burns me up

U.S. citizen?

there are only two answers

yes, sir…no, sir

but Anzaldúa in my backseat whispers truths in my ear

truths that I may have been born in this country

it does not belong to me

I belong to the land and its hodgepodge of peoples

mixed together in the great genocide soup

existing together in a land so hot it has burnt my memory

U.S. citizen?

simple answer: yes, sir…wrong answer: no, sir

where do I exist? what do I answer?


pinned to a dissecting tray

sliced into little pieces

how do I work?  how am I put together?

analyze me…label me…name me

my tongue moves too much

I will not be pinned

I want to say that I am not a U.S. citizen

I am not a citizen of any nation

I belong to this land and its people

no fences to divide…only bridges to cross

but I can’t say that

as I inch closer I need to remember

  take sunglasses off

turn off radio

practice answer…yes, sir

don’t want to be pulled over

don’t want to be searched

just want to go on through

no hassles…no poetry…no confrontation

nothing to delay…nothing to arouse suspicion

1100 undoucmented aliens seized to date

am I one?  oh wait, I am a U.S. citizen!

then what is this fear that creeps through me?

I will be caught…I will be deported to a land I don’t know

I will be detained…accused of being a terrorist and sent to Gitmo

I will be forgotten…locked in a hole forever

I am not a U.S. citizen….citizens have rights

waived away when planes crashed into buildings

we are just as brown as any Muslim/Mexican/Mojo

we are all the same…not U.S. citizens....

we are suspicious characters

we need to carry papers

prove we are not that kind of brown

we do want to overthrow the government so we can be equal

we do want to blow it all up

not with bombs and bullets

with marches/poems/e Spanglish

we want democracy not built on the backs of people

we want democracy built for the least privileged

we don’t want to be subject to a checklist

Chican@ isn’t even an option

have to check Hispanic

even closer…I’m the next car in the line

what do I say?

can I answer, I don’t know? 

can you tell me?  I was never really clear on that one…

how do I determine if I am a U.S. citizen?

is a birth certificate all I need?

what about Obama?  They still don’t believe he is one and he’s the president

I don’t even know what a long form birth certificate is…

is that the one with a printing of your feet?

can you tell me officer?  please?

what if he doesn’t know?

what if he is just like me?

trying to work…raise a family…just survive

do not ask questions!

what if he breaks protocol…declares everyone…illegal?

what do we do then?  do we resist? do we cry out in protest?

but what if he lets his guilt get the better of him?

he stops doing his job and lets everyone through…no questions asked?

is that possible?  wouldn’t that be something?  la migra taking a stand?

but here I am…I pull up and lower my window

U.S. citizen? he asks

Yes, sir.

The Emperor Changes His Clothes
                             for Manny Martinez

the emperor changes his clothes

and yet we stay the same

his robes have too many holes

not enough stitches

he can still see the ghettoes


the emperor changes his clothes

we gaze up in wonder

bright colors and soft silks

shine down with dazzling blindness

his walls trickle treasures for all

or so we are told

but how many kneading bread and digging graves

have ever changed their clothes?


and yet we stay the same

toiling in the sun

rays turning our backs to leather

working at Walmart with no benefits    no living wage

pushing a raft made of hopes, dreams, and old plastic bottles

down a river that has no end

tortured by the cruiseliner with no plank

where everyone is helicoptered in

so that their feet never touch the dirt

the emperor squarely inside


his robes have too many holes

it cannot be helped

it was made by the people

with all their blood and toil

there are still gaps in the seams

and even though he changes his clothes

we are still there hungry and old

older than him and the one before

making his food and pouring his wine

never can quite see them like ghosts

out of the corner of his eye

things are moved

beds are done

and yet he always sees them out of the holes in the seams


not enough stitches

to block the light

not enough wishing to make them invisible

they are there in the seams and in the gaps

running around toiling away

they are always quiet until they say a word

which startles the emperor and makes him blush

he hates to ask them for anything

they should just know his every want

and sometimes he desires them for just one night

promises he makes never intending to keep

promises that slip through the gaps

because there are always too many holes

that let the light in and expose his fragile soul

and through these holes he can always see

beyond his gilded palace lies places

he never wishes to go but he cannot stop looking

because there are never enough stitches to block his view


he can always see the ghettoes

covered in soot belching out black smoke for his high-end beemer

he can still see the people as they come and go

asking for more than he will ever give

it makes him sick that they are so needy

why, he only asks that they serve the greater good

his palace, his planes, his comfort, and his gold

they are alive and working and should be grateful

he provides them water and money when they work for it

but what have they done for him lately

except maintain his gardens and cook his food

if they weren’t there, he thinks, I would just order in

let the grass grow wild 

drive out to the country

and watch the ocean waves

nothing to worry about except when they come

asking for more than he is willing to give

he needs his 100% profits or else how will his children live?

go to public schools and eat fast food?

that is not for emperors

and so he changes his clothes

and yet we stay the same

we always leave holes

never enough stitches

so that he will always see the ghettoes.

Christopher Carmona

<em>Edit Libroafricante</em> Christopher Carmona

Christopher Carmona is a Chican@ Beat poet from the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas. He was a nominee for the Alfredo Cisneros de Miral Foundation Award for Writers in 2011 and a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2013. He has been published in numerous journals and magazines including vandal., Bordersenses, The Sagebrush Review, and tecolote. His first collection of poetry called beat was published by Slough Press and his second book, I Have Always Been Here is due for publication late 2013 by Otras Voces Press. He is also editing a Beat Texas anthology called The Beatest State In The Union: An Anthology of Beat Texas Writings with Chuck Taylor and Rob Johnson and is working on a book called Nuev@s Voces Poeticas: A Dialogue about New Chican@ Poetics with Isaac Chavarria, Gabriel Sanchez, & Rossy Lima Padilla to be published by Slough Press in 2014. Currently he is the organizer of the Annual Beat Poetry and Arts Festival and a member of the Coalition of New Chican@ Artists.