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How I Became American

Though I study all you left
I will never know why you chose
a raspberry bush for the corner of our         garden,
or this passport and this world tour,

where you waited behind
their rifle. Was it better than the mule
behind the bent backed Korean
whose plow overturned cracked mud,
brown as your skin and his,

the skin you were sent to protect? Did        you refuse

to shed tears for the home you gave up,
that you might never visit, and hope
one day in their uniform you would fit?

You lit a cigarette to kill regret,
remember your good luck.
In town waited whiskey and Claudette,

who, Korean, not French, trilled
her sax. It wasn't mother's milk on the tongue,
still a lullaby sooths

the memory

of Maria, perhaps? From letter syou wrote, I excavate
all that you missed:
       Hungary, the camps, Magyar—the intimacy
       of te (you) versus maga (you).

I translate your advice on how to be
American: show ambition, learn a trade, and spend all you earn—

because there is nothing better to do,
single, alone,

                                      but to roam
this world, made smaller by your letter,
and wish for one to call home.

published in Snapdragon Journal, Winter 2016

Lisa Cheby's poems, essays, and reviews appear in journals such as The Rumpus,
Ghost Town, Role/ Reboot, Tidal Basin Review, and the anthologies Drawn to Marvel, and The Burden of Light. Poems from her chapbook, Love Lessons from Buffy
the Vampire Slayer (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) were featured in The Wardrobe's Best Dressed Series.

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