P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Landscape with American Dream

By Janine Joseph (2009 Fellow)


Putting down the beets, you got to thinking my life had dead-ended
               and were serious, and I agreed—But first I need capers

                               and whatever’s past the pimentos, I said and scanned                                           the list. I needed the lemon glaze, the stuff I craved down the ethnic lane

                 and still I had to sing of how I walked a thousand hot miles
                                 because my mom was Catholic and pressed the white blouse, the blue

jumper, and we were good people and good people lent their good
                 cars to those in more need. It was like the distance from here

                                 to the Philippines, I nodded. I MapQuested it once. And they—
my brothers—were all eyes on their Game Boys, dodging potholes,

                 snake holes, and ant hills from St. Francis to who-knows-where we lived.
                                 We walked so much my dad every night kneaded the stiff backs

of our shoes so they wouldn’t peel scallops on our heels when we walked
                 lesson after lesson without turning an ankle. What wrecks we were! What

                                 expert wrecks burning down those sun-spun streets. Now look
how I muscle my stack of avocadoes and hearts—see how I coast and carve

                 and fault my rootless cart. See how I course my arm to say go
                                 and go. Do you wait for me? Do you circle the lot’s quiet loop

while I lift into a run like a dog dead and slipped from her leash?
                 Do you brake? Do you idle? Do you whir your arm from an aisle

                                 like a table saw saying come, come? I’ve a line to beat and no
double coupons so do you strike up your shoes? Do you barehand

                 your grief and pump its slack lap after lap after me? Come bred
                                 roadster, come American galloper. Come bark this breath out with me.


“Landscape with American Dream” first appeared in The California Journal of Poetics (issue 1).



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