WHEN THEY TELL ME TO IMAGINE THE AMERICAN DREAM I
Imagine father slaking thirst with sweet
sap of Changde river, puddled in mud
caked fingers like mottled fish.
Hands cupped, asking
the ground to give.
Mother in discount slacks, sighing, thrusting
dollar store mop as men kneel half-wasted
on grease slicked tiles, praying
wretched prayers that radiate like tooth
ache into spit shine porcelain.
Bathroom stall is confessional &
Chinese takeout is church & cousin
the deacon, kissing sweat
stained elbows knowing
her job is to sanctify.
Embassy is MGM Grand
& aunt is casino star, well versed
in the rules of “immigration roulette,”
betting away years for promise of green
card. My lips struggling
to pronounce the word “English,” purling together
flesh bleeding into flesh. Mouth reduced to nothing
more than phantom limb.
A wet “shaaaaah,” all I can muster
is the hollow hiss of rain.
Jasmine Cui is 17 years old and is majoring in Political Science, Economics, and Violin Performance at SUNY Geneseo. She aspires to be like her parents who are first-generation Americans that fought an extraordinary battle for their place in this country. Her work can be found at The Shallow Ends, Glass: a Journal of Poetry and www.jasminecui.com.