Two Poems for the Fourth of July

July 4, 2017
Gary Burke, “Remembering 9/11,” September 11, 2014
Gary Burke, “Remembering 9/11,” September 11, 2014

i’m from where the towers fell

i’m from where the towers fell
jaws where we mourned Tupac
armpit of a state bruised by
had-it-too-hard dollar ferries and subways

i’m from where houses       leaned over to highways
1&9 faced women of smudged jazz and spangles
work sheds across Hudson

i’m from Little Havana of
hey mamis
whistles for thick hips in beaters
two-toned where mixed don’t mean a flavor

i’m from slim children born of backseats
Garden State of loan sharks
crap games against brick bodegas
Black Tom and Panky Zepps

i’m from where you could live a whole life and never learn a word of English

i’m from where the only birds were pigeons


alien alien

                  “ he pays cash, that’s why he’s called Mister.”
                  – Oswald Joseph Mtshali

never had an education
took a talvar to school and fled the country

records of Saturday Night Fevers
bell bottom stone-washed jeans
played his youth to
another country
his eyes closed
he reached Queens

doors closed to his
dark room body
doors always closed
no matter how hard we knocked
we were toes and whispers
children of his parent’s eyes

he drank VHS tapes CDs
left his records behind
wallet open to another hit
Deep Purple Aerosmith
Bon Jovi
another hit

long drives
alone in that white
and all the trucks he ever haggled for
that broke down from so many miles
            Hey God, I’m just a little man got a wife and family
he knew the songs
the CK jeans
Yankees cap
they sold him
those dreams

her and him
two suitcases each
so fast they left us
to get there
Memphis to New Orleans

i asked him
what did you see
crisscrossed veins
alligators and beads
the giant peach
what did you see

dekhna kyah tah
what was there to see

we’d long for postcard textbooks
Mount Rushmore Gettysburg America
5 a.m. and stand
stand stand stand
flea markets sun under tarp
until now they can’t stand anymore

i find them again
on the same street
weary of motels and rest stops
bruised soap souvenirs
of where they’ve been
back to where they started
97 to 95
from Georgia to back
all along the coast
boxes we’d help make
thought it was a game
hide and seek
whatever they could buy
whatever they could sell
always afraid of who was at the door
we never answered the door

she kept chipped bottles
testers without caps
fingered blue RL America
gifted us Caution: Flammable
and sprayed us
stars and stripes
we got through school this way
not being stinky Pakis
go home

we bought
like good green cards
when they asked
we bought
swore allegiance
to clothes and movies
credit card after credit card
find a way to stay

that English
fly tape ensnares flies with appealing colors
Made in USA
so much about
Manifest Destiny
Christopher Columbus
that America
and when they try to make rent
next month    we have it next month
we scattered
kids and weddings
north and south
they still ask us where
we’re really from
implies place
where roaches lay eggs beneath the sofa
when i slip a hundred in her purse
even when i dye my hair blonde
my tongue lashed by ESL
            i can only interpret
            a weekend
            so many of us
            we learned
            the odds are bet against him
                   we alien alien

Puneet Dutt’s ( chapbook PTSD south beach (Grey Borders Books) was a finalist for the 2016 Breitling Prize. She lives in Toronto, where she is an editorial board member at Canthius and a workshop facilitator with the Toronto Writers Collective. Her debut collection is forthcoming with Mansfield Press in fall 2017.