“Immigrant” by Bijan Mottahedeh

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4 mins read

As I sit at my desk, trying to write an introduction to Bijan Mottahedeh’s video poem, “Immigrant,” these are some of the stories swirling around my head: 

With a high temperature of 69.3° degrees, a heatwave melts 20 percent of the winter snow on an island in Antarctica.

A federal judge orders detention centers in Tucson, Arizona, to cease housing migrants in bathrooms and forcing them to sleep next to toilets. 

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Border Patrol agent who fatally shot a Mexican teenager from across the border cannot be held accountable for his actions. 

Investors bolt the stock market, spooked by threats of an economic slowdown in face of a looming global pandemic, and the Dow Jones drops more than 3,000 points.

These events all occurred this month, some this very week. They are just a few examples of the travesties and dangers that assault Americans on a daily basis.

Where is our collective outrage and correction? Why do we tolerate a system riddled with injustice and inhumanity? Why do we care more for money than people? Will we bother to save ourselves? 

While “Immigrant” does not provide answers, the video poem — set against a haunting backdrop of images and sound —will raise many more questions and stay with you long after the last syllable fades away.

To contact Bijan Mottahedeh or view more of his artistic works, visit his website.

“Immigrant”

i’m an immigrant
a product of exile, fortune, and circumstance 
caged children bring me to rage but i’m silent 
seething and silent 
i’m an immigrant in cruel times
witness to an unraveling, an unleashing of demons 
in a might makes right free for all 
i’m a citizen, a refugee, a descendant of pilgrims 
arriving on these shores
before centuries and still today 
i dream all the dreams and fear all the fears
and i feel the angst of a new generation 
inheriting a plundered tomorrow
extinction creeping into its imagination 
but i remain silent 
i seize the day and remain silent 
mindful of goals and fitness 
treading the treadmill of happiness 
climbing the ladder of success 
grabbing the bull by the horns 
and timing the market
preoccupied in a bubble
building the future, building a home
at a loss for action as another shock 
this time of new concentration camps 
subsides 
it’s a dizzied silence
privileged, convenient
an adult silence, pragmatic and prioritized 
what can be done practically
what difference would it make actually 
what about everybody else 
a reasoned silence
justified by magnitude and scale 
because of all of the above 
the sixth extinction is underway
but seems far and safely distant
and resignation like an opioid, makes 
the cries of children torn from their parents 
the clamor of youth for a future
and the crashing of the wrecking ball
into pillars of life 
fade way 
i’m an immigrant in cruel times 
witness to an unraveling
to a colossus sinking with silent lips 


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