IMMIGRANT IN THE USA — Original Poem Featured on PBS NewsHour & Interview

in #blog6 years ago (edited)


As the debate over immigration rages on in the USA, I revisit a poem of mine examining the contradictions of my adopted home:

Speaking American

O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength,
But it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.

I’m learning to speak American
(I thought I had it, ages ago)
but the dialects throw me off
each like a language in itself

There’s the official tongue:
addressed to the better angels
of our nature, the huddled masses
all yearning to breathe free

But no one speaks such Shakespearean English
in the streets, there you are treated
to a more familiar manner of speech
the unguarded snarl known as slang

Unlike that poetic flourish on its tiptoes,
this dialect is flat-footed and suspicious
of the very tired and poor that it invites
preferring the right to bear arms in bars

Stray violence or casual hate of shifting shapes:
racial slur, ethnic insult or what specialists term
linguistic xenophobia…
you fill in the blanks, I’d rather not

I’m learning this fickle colossus
and the Big Friendly Giant are one
so, if you want to run with either
best to watch both don’t squash you

Having made a show of separating
church and state, they still Bless you
at every turn, but will also curse you
if you do not bless their troops, in return.

© Yahia Lababidi

You can listen to a reading of my poem on PBS, below, and read a profile of my work:



All this poetry related to emigrants to the United States is very close to me, since I moved to the United States two years ago. I don't regret this decision at all. It was only inconvenient for me to return home in order to renew my passport and visa. But now this problem is solved faster and at a modest price. You can read more by following the link here. If you're interested, of course.

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