Poetry Publications Recent

Steel City Dreams

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.

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