Poetry


Steel City Dreams

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.

Where are You From?

I used to be from letters and phone calls
now I am mostly from keyboards,
missed weddings,
green customs declaration forms.

I am a pendulum
swinging in 6-hour intervals.
On my two-dial watch
my future is my past is my future again

Mine is the language of postcards and luggage tags,
of apple pies and roasted pepper spreads.

I live on the Avenue of Mispronunciation, 
I am Huckleberry Finn
written in Cyrillic.

Sun Veneration

I am no match
for my beach neighbors
in camping chair pews.
I don’t know the words
to their gentle hymns,
the taste of bread and wine
on their table.

All I can offer
to the hazy August sun
is my own slick, darkened body
prostrate on the warm sand,
soft palms turned upwards
as if welcoming a gift
from above.

Published in Allegro magazine Issue 9 June 2016


Alchemy

What roaring gales
yanked us by the roots,
what magnetic fields
pushed us along
latitudinal lines,
what witchcraft
stirred up
 this
strange alchemy
 of you and me—
a curious confluence
sloshing together
like borscht and bourbon.

Published in Allegro magazine Issue 9 June 2016


Second Language

I am a tenant
in this glorious palace,
running through rooms and hallways
someone else has decorated,
sleeping in a bed
as if it’s my own,
my dusty boots lying on the floor. 

I try to earn my keep
so I spruce up a bit,
only take small sips
from the wine in the cellar
--or did I buy it?
I can't remember
what's mine and
what I have found here.

I feel quite welcome
but I keep
a suitcase ready,
just in case.
Once in a while,
I nail one of my own portraits
On a burnished wall.

Published in Transnational Literature Vol. 8 no. 1, November 2015


Supermom

Some deranged
Supermom
has invaded my body,
baked cupcakes,
watched a whole
little league game
without once looking
at her phone,
wrote two hundred
Thank you notes and
inflated
a bouncy castle
with a single breath,

all while I was
lying on the couch,
cigarette in hand,
waiting for my pink toenails
to dry.

Published in Mothers Always Write on January 15, 2021


Mothers in Politics

Let’s replace
all the world’s politicians
with mothers of small children
–the ultimate diplomats,
walking lie detectors,
skilled negotiators
deflecting even the
silliest demands
with a smile.

If mothers ran the world,
very long time outs
would be assigned for a
anyone not
playing nice.

World peace
would be swiftly obtained
in exchange for a
lollipop.

Published in Mothers Always Write on November 3, 2020


Ring

When I lost my wedding ring,
I took issue with the verb “to lose.”
Its implied intent mocked me–
As if I were an active participant.
The noun “loser” quietly ridiculed me
–a loser of rings–
the name-calling was getting personal.

This was how
people who have affairs felt,
minus the thrill—just the guilt.
I wallowed in my faux infidelity,
revisited imaginary motel rooms,
(long abandoned by my phantom lover).
There it was, my shiny ring,
a clean circle on a dusty dresser.

My husband, always the pragmatist,
in an epic act of solidarity,
Lost his own ring while swimming
rendering us
equal again.

Published in Rate’s Ass Review