Hidden Americans

Every day is the day of the dead

and we sit in the family cemetery

with red aluminum coke cans spread at our brown knees

as The Spiritless breathe under us, a reminder of tradition, their

hollow chests heaving in and out while the earth fights the physicality

of their bodies:

the way it is just our culture to move.

Grandmother Fifka sits on the stone bench of the grave and holds her sandwich in both hands,

the mustard dripping down her fingers,

a wooden picnic basket at her hip’s side

and she asks me in hushed Romani to hand her a napkin: This is the silence we devour.

The family comes in increments. Black Hondas and bicycles arrive like slow dinner guests.

We laugh about our dead

and crunch on potato chips to console the silence of the deceased,

and when the buried have had enough of our talk,

and we enough of salt and vinegar on the tongue,

we leave them our soda cans: mementos heavy with our breath, our grief and our music.

We place the cans around the tombstones ‘cause flowers die

and we’ve no time to mourn them too.

The congregation of soda cans is less temporary than candles, less evanescent than our stay.


It is July in Forth Worth and the heat is drinking my invisibility in cool gulps.

Mama’s taught me to tell no one I’m a Roma

but to never forget I am one.

Texas is a curse, flat and dry with fuel stations and lost people.

Texas is a curse, flat and breathless, with cattle that eat purple prairie flowers

out of a fear for death.

I’ve been estranged from mountains for fifteen hundred years.

My body mourns the loss of those green, oversexed mountains in northern India,

that twist into the sky to make you holy.

Texas is also salvation: the way God hides in the rain we hide in our shops,

we hide in the humidity and all is well.

While an aunt’s home is bulldozed in Italy

we tell you that we are Greek

so you ask no questions.

America: a handsome woman

who is fond of things that disappear.

America: My mother’s favorite goat stew, heavy with curry, sweat and wine —

soon you can’t tell the difference between the carrots and the tomatoes.

America: gypsy girls who read your palms, who spit Spanish out of their throats,

tell you they come from Puerto Rico, and when you leave,

the remnants of Spanish words slide back down into their stomachs,

while Romani curls against their tongues

as a reawakening,

teaching them what it means

to hide; to love.

When it’s dinner time I’ll consume whatever this country feeds me.


Legend says we were always made of music

and some Indian King wanted the poor to drink our music,

like their hungry mouths were just waiting for the liturgy of our lutes,

big and brown and shaped like a mother’s bosom,

like our playing would somehow make up for their misfortune:

The way breast milk is just a mother’s wet plea for a child’s health.

Legend says we took the ox and the wheat the King gave us in return for song,

gorged on the gifts,

wasted our music somewhere in the hills.

The king was displeased and he told us to go.

I have cousins I don’t know,

who are ignorant of hiding places in the basements of Texas.

They live on the edges of Parisian territory,

come into the city to consume your heavy pant pockets,

leave you empty, eat the coins for dinner,

and ruminate on how home would taste unlike

this weighted gold within the hallways of their mouths.

I ache at the way a crowded metro in Paris in the spring,

with remnants of rain and the stench of cigarettes clinging to the air, is full of people

getting on and off for home:

We haven’t stopped moving since.