Forty Copies and Immigration Dreams

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Image for post
Sam Prekop painting. Inspired by Chicago.

Forty copies printed.

Forty pieces of paper

One page story.

……“Would you like a story?”

Sometimes more effective to extend your arm,

Folding the page into quarters,

without a word exchanged

What might be printed on the paper?


Well, after an hour

Extending comfort zone

Into realm of stranger

public transportation

Some shake their head, no

When you ask, “Would you like a story?”

Our fears, boundaries

New and unexpected

Some uncomfortable, even nervous,

Out in public


What might happen

When a stranger gets close to you

Others preoccupied

Own mind space, smart phone owns space

Leave me alone space


I am not of this time

I am not

…What time am I of?

Some earlier time, I suppose

Where strangers were less fearful

Smiles were not surprises

…And what of my need to distribute?

Need to connect?

To share these words of hope

We are living in a time which challenges hope

Hope…this amorphous word, we heard

In 2008, helped us elect Barack Obama…the first time

Hope, change

Eight years later,

We are hopelessly changed

This recent election

Twenty-seven percent of eligible voters

Chose this man

Here he is

Wreaking havoc in the Oval Office

Signing his name

A signature once reserved for financial documents

A name engraved in gold on tall buildings

Now used for unconstitutional executive orders

Commands without consent


We’re left to go about our daily lives

Whether commuter train, bus, on foot

In our own cars, removed from reality

Many sit at desks, doing jobs,

Comfortably uncomfortable

Others busy moving about, stretching, crouching, lifting

Our daily work

Others home without jobs

Others homeless, no job


I am lucky

Fired two months ago

From a teaching job that was eroding

My hope

Now two months later,

This new classroom is an open place

Refugees and immigrants

Filled with many languages and vast experiences

Though their fears are real, so is their hope


Learn a new language,

adult in a strange new place,

Imagine the courage, inner strength

After a long day of physical labor,

Quick shower, dinner, now go to class

Most white Americans do not know

this experience, though some do

School, as an adult,

For most white people

Does not mean evening class

The end of the day


I looked around the BART train,

Searching for people who seemed open

Receptive to a piece of paper from a stranger

Printed forty copies,

Had them folded in my hand

Butterflies in stomach

When you have to choose

Who to hand your story to

A layer of uncertainty

Collecting in the gut

Where does it come from?

The immediate rejection

The paper rejected or crumpled, a head shake denial, “No.”

Stranger to stranger

What to expect in the interaction

These are the fears we must overcome now

One Sunday afternoon BART ride

I handed out seven or eight

Had one genuine conversation

A stranger sitting next to me

Smart phone distraction

“Would you like a story?”

“Did you write it?”

I nod, slightly embarrassed

He reads and I look at my phone so as

Not to be creepy

He finishes reading. He nods and smiles

“Hopeful ending.”

“We need hope now more than ever,” I say.

We might have talked for hours

But it was my stop and I rose

I handed out seven or eight

One person no longer a stranger

Between the time

I entered one station

And emerged from another


Jonah Hall writes here and other places. His forthcoming memoir/collection of essays, The Dusty Jumper, is about basketball, anxiety, fandom, and love. It will be available in April.

Writing. Poetry. Personal Essays. On the NBA, MLB, media, journalism, culture, teaching and humor.

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