Rock the Boat

Photo by Diego Catto

Go ahead, rock the boat.
Rock it with your words.
Rock it with your body, side to side.
Rock it with your heart that can’t take another slice
of American apple pie.

Rock it with your mind, front to back.
Rock the boat but hold onto your hat.
Rock the boat and hold your babies close.
Rock the boat and know the people who don’t throw you a rope
were never really your people.

Rock the boat and be ready to hear the truth
of what some people will say and do
to secure their place, to stay what they call safe.

Rock the boat and watch as a thousand gulls dive
for scraps.
Rock the boat while some make money on your bruised back.
Rock the boat and listen for blame.
(You shouldn’t have been in that boat to begin with, young lady. For shame.)

Rock the boat and stay when it gets really scary,
when you’re wondering if maybe you could crawl over
to that handsome clipper on a horizon.
Rock the boat and remember all the people who drowned.
All the bodies thrown over.
All the ones who didn’t have a chance.
All the voices that fly on wind like an avalanche of haunting song in your ears.
Rock the boat to the rhythm of their memory.
Rock the boat to the poetry of their silence.

Rock the boat for the ones who are too weak to rock,
too sick too tired too busy staying alive.
Rock the boat in every season .
Rock the boat and rock it harder
when someone tells you to stop,
you’re making them feel uneasy.
Rock the boat but don’t take the credit
for the rocking someone else did
while you enjoyed a four-course meal
in the captain’s quarters.

Rock the boat and rock the boat and rock the boat.
Rock the boat — or start swimming.



Up early
with the light
to walk to a church
that houses a man
with an ankle bracelet
who cannot see the light
of day, though the real criminals
are the ones who would send him
back to a country he fled 18 years
ago for this land’s promise of better
protection and safety. Did you hire him

to plant your garden? Did you pay him
under the table to trim the edges
of your property, to make it look
pretty and welcoming? Now his wife
and children wonder how long
they will have to wait for his return,
relying on community support to pay
for groceries and rent. He prays everyday.

As for me, what matters is that I have feet
and my work is portable and my children
are warm in their beds and I am unduly free
to go where I please, when I please,
and there is nothing fair about this equation.
Please, understand: Those who look weak,
those who look needy? They are the leaders.

If I had a lawn, I’d say come set up a tent
city with booths and creative currency
and herbalists and midwives and women
in overalls who know how to build things.
I’d say keep out unless you want to come
in to stretch out a hand in offering.
Nobody has nothing to offer.
Nobody is above reproach.

This land is your land.
This land is my land.
This land is none of ours but we are here
and my great-grandparents fled somewhere, too.
To you whose ancestors knew the names
of each root and leaf and star: I am sorry.
To you in a city so close to and so far from
my small town, let me translate my shame
into something mighty, like a rock through a window
or a warm glove on the coldest morning yet.

* * *

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Amherst church to provide sanctuary for Guatemalan facing deportation