The first-place winner of the American Immigration Council’s 24th annual (2020-2021) Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest was Kyla O’Halloran, whose poem “Welcome: Two Syllables, One Word” was submitted by the Chicago Chapter. Kyla’s poem examines the impact a simple, welcoming message can have on someone’s life.
Welcome: Two Syllables, One Powerful Word
You stare down at the patio of your new home. There is a mat lying flat on the cracked concrete floor. A mat where generations of people
Family and not family Have stepped their Muddy
Wet Snowy Grassy
Boots and shoes on the one mat that you stare at now. Yet, somehow, someway,
Your eyes don’t pay much attention to the mud
Or the damp straw that lay a top of the dark gray rubber
Your eyes pay attention to the word embroidered on the straw. The two-syllable word.
The seven letter word.
The most important word in the world to you. Welcome.
And as you step into your new home, you remember. You remember the walk.
You remember the run.
You remember the crying.
You remember all of it.
Including the border.
A sudden flash of darkness hurls over you Your thoughts have taken control of your eyes The stars are shining over your head
Making it look like they can swallow you whole And bring you back home.
Where you came from. But then you realize You are going home To the USA
To welcoming opportunities
You see your mom Your dad
You see the look on their faces The sweat
The desperation and determination to go to your new home The ground is
Muddy Wet Grassy Bumpy
You mind plays with you and makes it seem like the grass monster is chasing you Your head turns around
No one there
You keep on walking
Your Dad tells you only 20 more miles That is nothing to you
Considering the 2,000 miles you have already walked And ran
But the hours seem like days How much longer?
How long has it been?
How are we going to make it? How is this possible?
Is this pointless?
Will they turn us away?
Send us back?
After what seemed like forever You see the border
You see the soldier He says
And even though you don’t understand what he said You sense that he is welcoming you
Welcoming you to opportunities To jobs
Toa new home And with that
Your thoughts bring you back to present day You stare and the mat one more time
The one word seeps into your soul Sticks in your mind
Your thoughts say ‘Welcome’ to you And you say ‘Welcome’ back
For it is two syllables Seven letters
And one powerful word That means the world to you.
FILED UNDER: Celebrate America