I Am

I am…

Muslim,

Jewish,

Mexican,

Black,

Italian,

Cuban,

Haitian,

Gay,

Disabled.

 

I am…

a refugee,

a homeless veteran,

a Native American.

 

I am…

a woman.

 

I am…

from shithole countries

and broken-down palaces.

My face

is all the colors

of the rainbow

in shades of brown.

 

I came here from Naples

as Antonio,

a young man

on a steamship

called the Giuseppe Verdi,

frightened

and alone.

 

I came here

on an airplane from Havana

as Lydia,

a young girl of eleven

with my father

to Idlewylde Airport,

wearing a scratchy crinoline slip

underneath my stiff, new dress

with no winter coat

and saw snow

for the very first time.

 

I came here

as Juliette,

a young woman

on a boat

from Haiti.

I became an American citizen

as soon as I could

and I celebrated that day

every year of my life

until the day I died.

 

I am…

me

but I am also you.

 

I am everyone

who has ever yearned

to breathe free.

 

I am…

wretched refuse

and tempest-tost.

 

I am…

that golden door,

beckoning you

to come inside

and stay awhile,

inviting you

to build a new life

in me.


Catherine Gigante-Brown's poetry has appeared in Ravishly, Art & Understanding and Downtown Express. She has been featured poet at BookMark Bards, Brooklyn Poetry Outreach and Green Pavilion Poets. She and Darryl Alladice have performed “My Brooklyn, Your Brooklyn,” their spoken-word coming of age piece, at the Cornelia Street Café, the Park Slope Barnes & Noble, and the Italian American Museum. Her novels, “The El,” "The Bells of Brooklyn," and “Different Drummer” are published by Volossal. Her poem, "Namaste," appears in the anthology "Eternal Snow."