The morning after the afternoon I confirmed my brother’s irreversible rag heart, I accompanied my husband to be sworn in as a U.S. Citizen.
Here I am: in the U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Room.
Coldplay is playing in the U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Room.
Pictures of children and elderly faces from evidently distant places hang on the walls,
and I wonder—while knowing the answer—if the same pictures hang from the walls
of every one of these U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Rooms.
Now I hear: U2’s It’s a Wonderful Day.
Music not background music, photos not background photos, Coldplay followed by U2, old Russian Jewish immigrants, young female Asian immigrants, Black child Muslim immigrants.
White immigrants not on display because they do not feed tactical need to display.
Meanwhile, the music sounds real and the photos depict real. Real photos of real people
in every real U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Room across this unreal purple land.
I dare to believe it all, after all, to feel good about it, after all.
I allow myself surprise at the sweetness of the ceremony’s intention, the deliberate design of celebration at 7:44 a.m.. My husband and the other soon-to-be citizens sit in the front while I recline in the far back—as if someone here knows that I only occupy final rows.
And what will he say, I sit and think. What words will my husband repeat after me to become an irreversible citizen of U.S. of A.
What words will form his oath.
Will his oath be worded by domination. Will I have to listen to more words of torment, more words like the ones my brother shot at me in another crowded room, yesterday afternoon—
our mother must establish a protocol,
you cannot run things,
the board is a sham,
you are not qualified,
you must step down.
He: sitting before me, bound by his plastic bag skin. I thought to mention how both our mother and I were too busy cleaning up the ruinous effects of his ill-conceived debts to design him a protocol. But then: the permanent dent on his forehead from where his tumor was wrested dug at me deep, dug at me dense.
So I said—okay. Sure, great ideas, hermano.
How I slept last night deep and dense as the dent on my brother’s heretofore cancer-rich head.
How at 5 a.m. my heart husband startled me awake and drove me here to watch him swear allegiance in a room hung rich with fabric white, blue, and red.
How I am moved by the non-ambient soundtrack of U2 and Coldplay.
How I feel silly to be moved.
How I feel relieved to be moved by words that erase other words.
Rooms that replace other rooms.
Observe without thought the short patriotic film we are all bid to view.
Master of Ceremonies says—it is time for the Call of Countries.
Cuba 81; Colombia 15; Venezuela 8; Jamaica 4; Nicaragua 4; Dominican Republic 3; Haiti 3; Mexico 3; Peru 3; Spain 3; Honduras 2; Italy 2; United Kingdom 2; Argentina 1; Bulgaria 1; Brazil 1; Canada 1; China 1; Costa Rica 1; Czech Republic 1; Ecuador 1; El Salvador 1; France 1; Guatemala 1; Lebanon 1; Panama 1; Portugal 1; Russia 1; Saudi Arabia 1; Sweden 1; Vietnam 1; Yemen 1. (After each country name, a burst of applause.)
Is every word spoken, every sound uttered, not already an oath, a fact.
A few words from the citizenship oath—
renounce and abjure any allegiance to foreign prince;
heretofore been subject or citizen;
support laws and constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic;
work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law;
no purpose of evasion.
How an old woman sitting next to heart husband before we all entered the U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Room asked for help, not able to read a single word on her final citizenship form—¿me ayudas?
How husband helped: her responses, her words, formed, heretofore.
How husband and I cackled at Trump on display on our walk inside this U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Room. Laughter of purposeful evasion.
It is the end of the ceremony. All of us gathered together in this room stand and pledge allegiance to a homeland, this land where I, with husband, have space enough to forge a path apart from brother—he my foreign and domestic threat.
In the final video played Trump says—America is our home we have no other.
I have no home other than husband. Husband is my only home.
We the people inside the room comply with request that we sing words of Proud to Be an American.
I such and such thinking woman swayed by the spectacle of citizenship, by photos and soundtrack and country names named, and the surge of cry—and, as usual, I cannot say why I cry, only that it does not matter if I cry for ruined family, or for dented brother, or for the haphazard construct of home, or for such and such right to be free but this right always constricted, confined, always by story, by nation, by parentage, by process of personal thought—bound.
The new citizens are asked to wave their tiny procured flags.
Pharrell’s Happy comes on.
Here I find myself: free to share what I found.
ANA MARIA CABALLERO was born in Miami in 1981 but spent most of her childhood in Bogotá, Colombia. She is seeking an MFA in Poetry at Florida International University, where she was runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her first nonfiction manuscript “A Petit Mal” was awarded the International Beverly Prize for Literature and will be published by Eyewear Press. It was also shortlisted for the Tarpaulin Sky Press Book Awards and the Split/Lip Press reading cycle. Her collection Entre domingo y domingo (From Sunday to Sunday) won Colombia's 2014 José Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize. Finishing Line Press published Mid-life, her first chapbook, in 2016. Her writing can be found in journals such as Sundog Lit, Tupelo Quarterly, and CutBank and reached the final round of consideration in Ploughshares' 2019 Emerging Writers Contest. More online at anamariacaballero.com.