Marlene Labastida


A SF Bay area resident, Marlene Labastida was born in Mexico and grew up in Oakland, California. She is interested in exploring and narrating the stories of immigrant youth through poetry, particularly around trauma, perception and the DACA experience. Marlene graduated from Dartmouth College with B.A. in Economics and did graduate studies at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Quédate Callada

Quédate callada, mami whispered on my first day of kindergarten
Si, mami.
Reminded me again as we walked past the laundromat,
I clenched my red Sesame Street lunch box as she murmured,
if anybody asks about your immigration status
or about how our family got here
            (Walked across the dry 100 degree Sonoran desert holding papi’s hand.
            My toddler feet barely making any strides.
            Unable to distinguish between US and Mexican soil.
            Cried most of the way.
            We almost ran out of water.
            It took 4 days.)
Don’t tell anyone that..
no tienes papeles.
Not your friends,
or even your teachers
            (don’t trust a soul with these things)
If the daily instructions weren’t enough,
on Saturdays, she reminded me again before catechism
Whispered in secrecy in the entrance of our studio apartment
as she polished my shoes
as if our neighbors could hear over the city noise,
             or their saturday morning novelas)
and cautioned me again as we approached St. Liz,
where all of the other five year old girls with patent leather shoes
waited to learn about Jesus
No le digas a nadie
    (not even the church is to be trusted)

Quédate callada
Be quiet
Si, mami.
            (Stayed quiet. Mum. Silenced.
            Injustices. Harassment. Wrongdoings.
            During my childhood.
            My teens.
            My twenties.
            A lifetime.)  

Quédate callada, I mumbled on my first day of college
I clutched my books as I walked across the quad
Don’t get too much attention or talk too much.
Don’t overshare, especially about your family.
There are consequences)
No tienes papeles
Mami’s cautions rang in my ears as I made
new friends,
new teammates,
new boyfriends
Don’t say a word about the situation
Sin papeles.
            Started to become invisible)
Didn’t want to be branded as illegal.
Even though that’s what it was
            (Or in more politically correct terms
            these days,Undocumented,
            because Human beings can’t be illegal
            or aliens. Unless they are branded so
            by the government and the media)
Nothing anyone could do for me.
Besides pity me, like you do a wounded animal.
       Stare at it helplessly.)
Occasionally, we found each other.
            (the handful of us. estudiantes sin papeles)
And we immediately understood
And tacitly knew that that we needed
to protect each other’s secret.
as if it was our own. It was.
That’s when I learned, that there is nothing personal in pain.

Quédate callada.
Be quiet.
That keeping secret shit stays with you)    

© The Acentos Review 2018