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  • Steel City Dreams

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    Steel City Dreams

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    Give me your engineers,
    your researchers, your IT professionals,
    not poor, but tired,
    tired of waiting
    for the annual
    summer migration
    to the homeland,

    it is important for the children
    to be with their cousins,
    tired of wrapping
    homemade booze in bubble wrap
    to smuggle it through customs,
    only share with the best of friends
    like liquid gold
    for it should last you a year,
    tired of lost luggage,
    tired of turbulence,
    tired of competing with fellow immigrants
    at who bought the cheapest air fare,
    even though we can all
    afford it.

    What language do you dream in?
    I dream in the language of F-1 and H1B
    and visa appointments at US embassies
    heavily guarded by
    serious men in uniform.
    I dream in a language
    that is teaching me speak in code,
    to forget childhood lessons
    in humility
    and force myself to brag about
    how smart and skilled I am
    --it’s called networking here—
    But are you authorized to work in the US?
    Will you be needing sponsorship?

    I worship at the shelves of the
    Euro Mart on 51
    that used to be owned by Euro people
    but it is now owned by Asian people
    who sell Euro products
    of my childhood—
    commodification of nostalgia.
    Tins of sardines,
    liver paté,
    sheep milk feta sloshing in brine
    and the top prize,
    Schweppes Bitter Lemon.
    Hundreds of dollars
    spent on snacks and chocolate
    but money has no meaning at the
    Euro Mart
    for how else do I
    share the taste and crunch of my
    childhood
    with my half-American kid,
    my anchor baby --
    Is he fluent in both languages?
    Yes, yes, even though it is a struggle
    but how else can he talk with his
    baba and dede-
    Take all my money,
    for how else do you
    keep him tethered to your heart
    if not with
    jars of ajvar,
    like my mom does to me.

    Give me your foreign students,
    in college sweatshirts
    figuring out the 28X
    from the airport
    jet-lagged,
    Wear your traditional clothes
    For the ethnic festival
    --but all I wear is jeans
    and T shirts!
    Learning to like
    peanut butter and jelly
    learning to like
    their mispronounced names
    learning to like
    Where are you from?
    but slower and louder
    What is your village like?
    Always a village, never a city
    like the big city
    I grew up in
    learning to like
    pizza and ranch
    but never liking
    the arctic chill in the
    air-conditioned classrooms and
    windows sealed shut
    year round.
    It can get cold in there.

    Do you celebrate Christmas?
    I do but it is in January,
    an afterthought, really,
    always working on my Christmas,
    always working on my Easter,
    my Jesus died and resurrected
    a week
    later than
    your Jesus.

    Do you have Thanksgiving?
    Now we do!
    Invite people, who,
    Like you,
    Don’t have a family to go to,
    Learn to get the lumps out of
    the gravy,
    heck, buy a gravy boat,
    learn to make an apple pie
    --I like making apple pie—
    brine the turkey,
    bake it in a paper bag,
    bake it overnight,
    bake, bake, bake
    until the language of
    turkey and stuffing and cranberries
    becomes your language,
    your song.

    Give me the grandparents
    who swore never to fly across the ocean
    now flying
    across the ocean
    to be with the babies,
    grandparents learning to like
    peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
    and Cheerios
    and play groups,
    grandparents freaked out
    by skeletons and front yard gravestones on
    Halloween,
    It’s a holiday, that’s what they do—
    But why?

    No, I will not teach you swear words
    in my language,I barely use swear words in my language,
    (unless I am driving),
    I will not teach you
    how to make a cheese pie
    because nobody taught me,
    I carry it in my bones.
    Some things you can’t learn.
    But I’ve been learning
    for decades
    How to be a Pittsburgher,
    You don’t have an accent!
    Don’t lose your accent!
    But I don’t need it any more,
    I’m married, haha
    What’s your maiden name?
    So many consonants, haha

    I’ve learned to march
    across these bridges
    as if they are mine,
    to let this city
    take my breath away
    every time I exit the
    Fort Pitt Tunnel--
    to watch the sun rise
    above the East End
    for you and
    for me.
  • IN TRANSLATION
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    IN TRANSLATION

    An essay on the experience of being bilingual, in a bilingual family, and translating poetry.

  • A FAMILY OF ALIENS
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    A FAMILY OF ALIENS

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    In theory, bilingualism sounds like a natural and reasonable option for many transnational families, yet in reality it can be complicated and at times impractical. I wanted to play with the term ‘alien’ and its legal connotations in the US, and expand it to include family relations in order to see how language can both connect and alienate. Most of all, I wanted to show that there are no definite answers when it comes to language usage in multilingual families.