POEM LXXVI: “JIM DUGGAN AND HOSSEIN VAZIRI”

This is how success in America works.
First, take the place you came from.
What’s that you said? Really? God, what a nightmare.
We can work with that.
Is there a costume?
Good. Bring it in.
Can you play it up a bit?
More.
Good—that’s good. Now, you’re gonna get spat on.
A lot.
This is part of the job.
You might need to think about getting a bodyguard for the parking lots.
You might need to think about making your kids stay at home.
You might need to think about a lot of things,
when you’re standing there in the middle of the ring,
giving Americans something to spit at.

Now, you—you’re going to have a different angle.
You’ll be the flip side,
endlessly beset upon by dark forces.
Grab something to defend yourself with—I’m not kidding, by the way.
You’re not immune,
just insulated.
Just like America, if you think about it.
Try not to think about it too much.
Most of the time, the parking lot will be easier for you.
Most of the time, you won’t resent the audience.
Most of the time, you won’t wonder what the fuck you’re doing here,
getting hurt again and again and again,
giving Americans something to cheer for.

But here’s the thing about America:
it’s full of Americans.
And Americans know something about getting up every morning and playing a role.
Deciding to be the person
that the people around them need,
instead of the person they were back in the old country
of dreams and nightmares.
Telling themselves that every minute is bearable.
Working through the pain,
only to discover that when their work is done,
they haven’t made enough money
to fix the shattered knee,
the torn cartilage,
the hamburger that used to be a shoulder
before it got fed into the machine
called America.

Americans can see that pain in anyone,
and they will love you for it,
no matter who you used to be.

And that’s how success works,
in this bitch of a country
full of beautiful people.

It breaks your back.
It makes you humble.

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