In those days of “The Ugly American”
and Gary Powers, his U-2 Incident,
we lived and traveled in Scotland and Europe.
It was mostly the intense teenage boys
who yelled, “Yankee, go home!”
or maybe the coal man, if you could
parse out a few understandable words,
who insulted our Canadian friends
by mistaking them for one of us.
Sure, speaking would give us away,
but how did they know us on the streets?
Walking with hands in pockets, some said,
or overcoats, a wimp’s shame
according to the hardy Scot
with his damp-to-the-bone chill and Gulf Stream,
not guessing Arctic winds and ices.
Years later, the writer was unmasked
in Austria without a word, without a pocket,
without a coat. “Because you smiled at me,”
the face of officialdom admitted.
“We don’t mind. It’s nice.”*
We carry our terrarium worlds with us,
never guessing how we seem, yet ever fretting
over imagined opinions. (My female generation
always tucking bra straps, hitching slips …
.”what’s a slip?” …while the young
shape their selfies and let it all show,
have different hang-ups.)
Is it American to always
go “spot checking” ourselves?
The Brit’s American joke back then
was the Yank, hand to mouth,
nose to armpit, checking for suspect odors….
checking….checking … is it only human?
only American?….. or only me?
*from Lynda Lynn Haupt, MOZART’S STARLING
Carol Hamilton has recent and upcoming publications in San Pedro River Review, Dryland, Pinyon, Commonweal, Southwestern American Literature, Pour Vida, Adirondack Review, The Maynard, Sanskrit Literary Magazine, U.S.1 Worksheet, Broad River Review, Fire Poetry Review, Homestead Review, Shot Glass Journal, Poem, Haight Ashbury Poetry Journal, Sandy River Review, Blue Unicorn, former people Journal, Main Street Rag, Pigeonholes Review, Poetica Review, Zingara Review, Broad River Review and others. She has published 17 books: children’s novels, legends and poetry, most recently, SUCH DEATHS from Virtual Arts Cooperative Press Purple Flag Series. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.