America Speaking

  1. The Immigrant

The immigrant loves me

Waiting by the side of the road

Watching for a truck to slow

Hablando con sus amigos

He is happy to have come this far

To have worked so hard and saved so long

And paid the many propinas that must be paid

He remembers kissing his wife goodbye

Holding his niña tenderly, making promises

The long, dusty, claustrophobic ride

And the first view of his new country

The overwhelming hope

He is here now, here, waiting

If he gets work today

He’ll make ten dollars an hour

As much as he made in two days back home

Don’t tell me, he thinks, I am not welcome

Don’t tell me I do not deserve this chance

Don’t tell me there is no work for me

I am here and I can see: you need me

 

  1. The Firefighter

The firefighter loves me

Lying on the station’s couch

Thumbing through an old magazine

Watching a rerun of Law and Order

He is happy to know I chose him

Proud to be one of my children

And although his body is resting now

It is ready. His back is strong

His legs sturdy, his grip firm

He is waiting for the alarm

And he will be the first

On the first truck

To the first blaze

First to glory

That is how

He loves me

  1. The Farmer

The farmer loves me

Sitting on his front porch

Looking out at his land

Three hundred arable acres

The crops harvested now

The fields lying fallow

Everything is good now

In the old days it was thus

At this late, quiet time of the year

And then there was the drought

He does not think for long on that

And why? The market has returned

And prospects are good

He smokes his hickory pipe

And thinks about his children

Busy all in different cities

Bunched into buildings

Noisy, crowded places

Glass and steel and grime

And the ever-present

Haste and waste

That entangles millions

What strength and foolishness

It takes to live like that

Yet he is proud of them

And happy to have this time

After this good harvest

 

  1. The College Teacher

The college teacher loves me

Sitting alone in her classroom

After her students have departed

She thinks about her own best teacher

Who hugged a fourteen-year-old girl

And soothed away each erupted fear

And came in early Monday mornings

To tutor her privately in English

“This is our secret,” she said

“Nobody has to know.”

And patiently, in three years’ time,

Erased the ugly accents of her birth

And brought her into fluency

Making it possible in small degrees

To merge into the beautiful ignorance of her future

And return, six or seven years later, at the top

Most accomplished, best dressed, most loved

And finally, after college, best married

With smart luck and lucky love and lovely money

And for that and for much more she is happy

To be back here looking for herself

 

  1. The Car Washer

The car washer loves me

Rag in hand, ready to pounce

When each clean car emerges

Glistening, dripping and happy

From the amazing machine

He is there to rub them down

These shiny steel, four-wheeled

Pets of the wealthy class

To each pampered beast

He moves with alacrity and zest

There is no room in his heart

Nor time in his workday

To hate the owners or his

Pot-bellied, cigar chomping boss

He has other jobs to do, other burdens

And these hulking creatures

Wet and happy from their shower

Do not deserve to be badly handled

They are pretty, mindless things

And one day, not now but one day

He will have one of his own

 

  1. The Copywriter

The copywriter loves me

When the results are published

And he sees the response rate for Split B

The six-tenths of one percent life

He is deeply happy. He has become richer

By eleven thousand dollars and what is more

He has proven his point

If battle victories were as sweet

He might be a soldier

But marketing is love, not war

And his words are silky feathers

His sentences healing balms

Restoring youth and hope to millions

He has no cudgels to swing

Just metaphors like bubbles

That swell up and disappear

He is a lover, not a fighter

And he tells himself that every day

In the morning, washing his face

In the mirror’s bright reflection

 

  1. The Real Estate Developer

The real estate developer loves me

Hard-hat on her sixty-dollar haircut

Master plan under her fragrant armpit

Cashmere socks coddling her legs

Before her towering condominium

Standing, head back, she is

Quietly amazed

At not just its towering verticality

But also its capacity to

Absorb interest

Its potential to

Yield profit

It was always a labor of love

She lives in a modest house alone

Sees her children on weekends

And reads biographies of great men

Particularly Einstein and Napoleon

Audacity! That was their secret

That’s what she says at parties

 

  1. The Bartender

The bartender loves me

Rag in his back pocket

Bad pants, good shoes on

He moves like a cat

In a familiar cage

Back and forth

Like liquid on a counter

His braceleted arms are graceful

His ringed hands are adept

He has mastered the arts

The subtle art of smiling hello

The hard art of confident work

The thoughtful, accidental touch

Lingering but just a second

Every night is an opportunity

To be beautiful and smooth

And move gracefully toward love

For if he knows one thing

He knows he – and everyone else

There – is there that evening for love