Jetlag jaded, we emerge from our bolthole,
our first destination the Lower East Side,
New Zealand, Tahiti, Pacific atolls,
memory-blurs like Las Vegas’ moon-bright neon
seen from the dirty, half-empty plane,
anything better than the moral past.
From jealousy to the land of movies.
Our employers, Camp America, don’t show,
so we pilgrims venture from Newark airport.
Our backpacks, bus and subway stares,
abrade my scarred self-consciousness.
With this woman, so young, her beautiful hair,
my unedited heart pulses for all to see.
On the train, newspapers in four languages.
I wanted to share an arthouse cinema
so had taken her to see an old movie
about embattled people making fresh starts,
a dream I shall never quite realise.
Still cringing from the hounds of disapproval
we discover the movie’s locale
as if entering a teeming street masquerade.
Information seekers, we attract curiosity.
Feeling like extras in our own movie
imitating another customer’s lunch order,
our accents hush a noisy, crowded deli
like a poised knife-trick artist in a circus.
Eating under the ornate street sign
I can’t, don’t want to, believe we shall fail.
(A note on the poem: When I remarried, to a much younger woman from a different background, we encountered hostility from both families so temporarily fled to America where everything seemed like a movie. Many years and four tall sons later we are still together. ‘Hester Street’ was the arthouse movie’s title.)
Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in Axon: Creative Explorations, The Best Australian Poetry, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The Weekend Australian & Westerly. His latest book is Here Where I Work, Ginninderra Press (Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.