Guns, Drugs, Homos

By: Sarah Adams
my last day in prague i am convinced
i can find the perfect souvenirs,
more than magnets or postcards,
so i plunge into the soft underbelly
of the city where tourists burrow,
search storefronts for the gifts
i have yet to see, two hours and
counting on inspiration to strike;
for days i have played the part
of czech so well that a woman
asks me for nasměrováni*
—i must seem
like i belong, even though i wander
lost as she, in ways a map
can’t solve
at some point in the whirlwind
of acculturation, i have lost track of
myself and nothing feels right—
no skin, no label, stripped down
i ghost, genderless, senseless,
wondering when the next
revelation will strike, or if there
is even anything left to discover;
perhaps i reached the apex days ago
and missed my chance to understand—
two roads diverged and i took
the wrong one, perhaps a window
closed that footsteps cannot recover,
a turnaround that backtracking
cannot resolve
now i am fed the lines of tourist,
role i have refused for weeks,
scarlet stain of foreigner foams
in my mouth, flares in my ears
as shopkeepers speak my mother
tongue, my mind mutters failure, for
they recognize me, my disguise
crumbles and with each breath
a breeze brushes away
the mask i have constructed:
underneath, stark american as
apple pie, confirming all the clichés
i have tried to sugarcoat
or dissolve
one clerk intent on conversation
sees the dress, the souvenir
i grip, english his best guess,
acts surprised i am single, not shopping
for a boyfriend—attempt at
compliment across cultural lines,
though děkuji**
doesn’t come
to mind—canada? america?
oh, america, a mess right now—and
i must agree, for before i left
questions of collusion led headlines,
incompetence, the horror of this
president, what will he do next,
and shootings, every month a new day
of the dead where we gather bodies
for photoshoots and names for
obituaries, each vying for veneration,
title of most tragic loss, while others
die from heroin, opioids, addiction
undermined, brushed off as
wrong move, permanent punishment,
system collapsing because of
people who say nothing
america a mess,
and then his accent
shapes a list:
guns, drugs, homos
i make a list of my own:
my hands full of souvenirs
cannot afford altercation,
i must get back to the hotel soon,
this is his culture and i am
the outlier, an odd dot can’t change
a mind in its second language,
and it is fine to be silent because
to speak would be self-defense
and i did not come here for this,
did not come here to engage
in the personal that is political
stone silent, i return statue
to shelf and slip from shop
without a na shledanou***—
this my statement, my stand
that says nothing except
coward who hid behind
culture as an excuse.
*Czech for directions
**Czech for thank you
***Czech for goodbye

***
sarah adams is a senior History and English Literature major who
enjoys photography and writing. Sarah usually prefers to photograph inanimate
objects, but did branch out and photograph a pair of geese the other
day. Sarah’s other favortie pastimes include making awful puns, voluntarily
going to the movies alone, and watching bad recorder covers on YouTube.

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