Ameriki

Editor’s Choice Award


by Eirené Archolekas

I am a captive of the American dream             
      in someone else’s head
I am the product of someone else’s choice

keeping silent slumber  
In the hull that held the hopes of my mother, 
Smelling street corners of piss  
Reading signs behind shop windows, “No Greeks, No Rats”
Falling through the sidewalk cracks of neither White nor Black

“Ameriki Ameriki,” she kept repeating  
“I am going to go to Ameriki” 
She had wanted this self-fulfilling prophecy  
from behind the white burlap sack of rice  
compliments of Mr. Marshall    

Ameriki, bubbled halos around the heads of kin 
They packed quilts of her future life into a plaid suitcase 
Topped the baulo in two wide leather buckles 
To the rim with hand-embroidered dollies and photos

She resurfaced after a Pan Am night flight at JFK    

It was the warm air of promise that inflated
            the bouquet of their dreams
that lifted them right up into the friendly skies 

Like a kind of birthday party inflatable  
Yes, yes we are going to live in a three-bedroom house
Yes, we will never go hungry again 
Yes, our children will rise higher than us 
Tomorrow it will be better. 

Railroad apartments running roaches 
Be patient. Things will improve 
50 cent per hour garment work hunched over till wee hours
the metal Singer drumming lullabies 
Temporary, you’ll see. Make patience daughter.  

All that hot air fissing fussing fighting  

She was fed and fed penny by penny, 
one garment stitch in time 
Piece by piece, the American dream  

The fabric puzzle piled under paper outlines like loose leaf reams 
Fed the one-toothed industrial machine
      those cut-up body parts —
a shoulder, a sleeve, a hip halter, a neck, a leg —
to complete a Frankenstein garment of dreams.  
$1.25 for each assembled whole   

Lastly, the shaky penciled script of “028” 
Her worker number
To trace back any irregularities
(By chance she found her ID
Beneath the tag with a purple swan 
On the rack in Macy’s
$398 suggested retail price) 

The price she paid for the transatlantic journey took more than 35 years

They cut one by one the cords that kept them bound to the possibility of return  
Just like the balloons of Oz
       pappou’s gold rimmed tooth   sunshine on hard boiled eggs
      branches of olive trees and votsalakia
      the tissue tablecloth clothes pinned near the sea  

The mother looked to what she could gain in the glimmer ride of America
The daughter looked to what she had lost    

The hot air of the dream fueled the drum of the driver of the machine
      No matter that it mangled Baba’s mind, wore mama’s spinal column

(And still they come by the boatloads bloated and bursting onto shores and factories Like rats.)

The hot air escaped subtly  fissssss
Now she is stuck.    

Noosed to an empty balloon 
Holding taut a wimpy line  
Deflated.      

In a place no one can pronounce her name 
Squinting her eyes shut  
Clicking her heels in a rembekiko strut  
Repeating under her breath, 

“There’s no place like home 
There’s no place like home.”   


Irene Archos or Eirené is a daughter of the Hellenic Diaspora. Born in South Africa, raised briefly in Athens, she migrated with her family at 5 to NYC.  She is a writer, artist and teacher and expressive arts therapist. She has been a freelance journalist with tons of international experience having worked from the Middle East.  She started the only feminist-leaning site dedicated to broadcasting the issues, needs, and accomplishments of women from her ethnic background at www.greekamericangirl.com. Her clips can be found at irenearchos.weebly.com and her art at www.eirenearcholekas.com.

Image Credit: Kathy Bates

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