Legal Alien by Pat Mora
A lyrical poem is said to relay the poet’s true feelings and thoughts regarding anything that he chooses to write about. (Campa, AuthorStream. com) The overall tone of the lines of a lyrical poem would depend on the poet’s purpose, mood, and feeling at the time it is written. Thus, while other poems cover academic topics and employ the use of the five senses, lyrical poems have been written for writers to reveal their secrets, unveil their passion and speak out their minds and hearts.
While other poems are objective in nature, lyrical poems are plainly subjective. They convey the feelings and views that the writers want to be put down in written form, and it matters not whether they are right or wrong, prejudiced or fair, diplomatic or totally tactless. (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 181) “Legal Alien” is an example of a lyrical poem. Written by Pat Mora, it speaks of how most Chicano, or Mexican-American people, feel about their situation in America and about their life amongst the Americans.
The Poet A lyrical poem uncovers the poet behind its lines. It contains the personal views of the poet. His passion and inspiration at the time of writing each line breathe into the composed poem its character. (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 181) Pat Mora, an award-winning Hispanic writer, undoubtedly wrote her heart down in her poem “Legal Alien. ” Mora was born on January 19, 1942 in El Paso, Texas, where her family moved to during the Mexican Revolution. (Walsh, Cary Academy webpage)
An account in the Holt, Rinehart & Winston website further describes the poet: Mora’s poetry often springs from her geographical surroundings: the high desert that extends from Mexico in the south to the Rocky Mountains in the north, creating a common bond between the two countries and two diverse cultures. In viewing Mexican and American experience, she chooses to emphasize the harmony rather than the disharmony between the two countries and between Hispanic and Anglo cultures within the United States.
While she does not avoid addressing negative aspects of life along the border, she also affirms the creative and regenerative forces that the desert’s natural grandeur brings to its inhabitants. Mora’s hope that there would one day be changes in the plight of the Chicanos in America is clearly expressed in the lines of the poem. Her lines talk of specific things she would have wanted Americans to understand and to bear in mind the next time they deal with Chicanos. “The lyric poem has the function of revealing, in terms of pure art, the secrets of the inner life, its hopes, its fantastic joys, its sorrows. (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 181)
“Legal Alien,” then, aptly reveals how it feels to be in the shoes of the Chicanos. The Structure, Tone and Rhythm of the Poem “Legal Alien” The musical and rhythmic tones of lyric poems are among their noted aspects. In fact, the lines of lyric poems have generally been sung while a musical instrument provided the accompaniment. (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 181) The poem ‘Legal Alien’ employs the open poem form. Its lines, hence, are not grouped into stanzas. The entire poem simply consists of 22 lines with no spaces to part them.
Only two pairs among the last words of the 22 lines actually rhyme – “English” and “Spanish” of lines 5 and 6, then “Mexicans” and “Americans” of lines 14 and 15. Through it all, the poem employs a rhythm through its lines with varying numbers of words and syllables. A New York Times writer noted that Pat Mora’s poems are bilingual – Mora made use of both Mexican and English words to form her lines. This move has been hailed as being in proud defiance of purists who apparently do not approve of bilingual literary works. (Patmora. om) But the goal of seeing Mexicans and Americans living harmoniously together is one thing that Pat Mora has devoted her professional life to. In a way, her bilingual works purports the same message – they are a combination of Mexican and English words and they together form beautiful lines.
The Message and the Irony Relayed “Legal Alien” portrays in simple and straight terms how being of dual cultures has made the lives of Chicanos complicated. It talks of how a Mexican, even with American citizenship, ends up feeling like he does not belong to either the Mexican or the American society. An American to Mexicans, a Mexican to Americans, a handy token sliding back and forth between the fringes of both worlds. ” (lines 14-18) Chicanos are shunned Mexicans for being different from them. Similarly, they are not treated as fellow American citizens by Americans – most Americans, in fact, see them as inferior. It seems that Chicanos are bound to forever belong to neither – in a most uncomfortably and uneasy way. They can never be purely Mexicans or Americans because the lives they have led caused them to imbibe the culture, language, way of life and manners of both.
Even their accents classify them as neither Mexican nor American. Speaking both the Spanish and English languages well, they tend to have accents unique of the bilingual people that they are. Thus, the Chicanos’ accent is one peculiarity that sets them apart; and the list can go on. Conclusion “Legal Alien” speaks of the struggle of Chicanos to fit in. It is an eloquent attempt to voice their side, it is a well-written lyrical poem, and it is a plea for understanding and acceptance.