Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

Poems from How to be An American by Ally Malinenko

Entertain We Must. If Nothing Else One Wants to Show off the House

I notice the rip in the couch,
but don’t say anything for a day or so
because once it’s said out loud,
something will have to be done
because of course we cannot live with a rip
in couch
any more than we could live
with the broken window
held aloft by a book for the last five years
or the tiles in the kitchen that have come up
and are held down by tape.
No something must be done,
and that something is to stand
unhappily under the blaring lights of a furniture
showroom floor and have to make small talk
with a bald anxious man
who wants us to think about
a fold out
for when the in-laws come
and who needs this sale
so badly
because one kid
started football
and the other needs braces
and those uniforms
and wire
don’t pay for themselves, you know.

It Is As Important To Have Somewhere To Go On Thanksgiving As It Is On Christmas

There is always frustration
often tears.
Headaches from the television that is blaring
the children that are screaming and running.
I watch the clock.
The cooking that began at 11 am
is still not over nearly 6 hours later.
I wait.
I wish I still smoked so I could sneak outside
into the cool fall air and watch the clouds dance
past the mountains,
watch the earth shake off what I wish was just another day.

Instead I hear her curse, as a knife clatters to the floor
and then she makes a sound like a sob.
Goddamnit, she says.
and I get up and ask for the 100th time that day
Is there anything I can help you with?

No, she says again,
I’m just so happy you’re all here.
So thankful and so happy.
Just so happy.

Americans Have an Enthusiastic Look. They Feel Empowered. No one Else Has That Special Kind of Confidence

Making our way through Paris,
my husband has left behind the baseball caps
that normally grace his head.

We’ve packed only plain t-shirts.

We keep the map folded, out of sight in our back pocket.

We speak in low, hushed tones
anxious about speaking English
and our American accents

and yet,
here he comes, in tight jeans, a small scarf,
his face shaved,
lithe, attractive,

crossing the wide open
space of the garden

points and says “Obama, ça va?”

He gives us a thumbs-up and a too loud laugh before passing.


Ally Malinenko’s second book of poem Crashing to Earth is forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press and her first novel for children, Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb was recently published by Antenna Books. She lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to but was voted to have the best halal truck.


2 thoughts on “Poems from How to be An American by Ally Malinenko

  1. Pingback: Three “How to be an American” poems up at the Blue Hour | allymalinenko

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