Ally Malinenko has been writing poems and stories for awhile. Occasionally she gets them published. Her first book of poems, The Wanting Bone was published by Six Gallery Press and her novel for children Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb was published by Antenna Press. She lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to.
But Americanism Means Believing America is a Special Nation Chosen By God
Did you read what Putin said about American Exceptionalism, he asks.
What’s American Exceptionalism?
You know, he says, that we think we’re special.
We are, she says.
Because this is the greatest country on earth.
You really think that?
Really, he says, as a black woman in this country you really think that?
Yes, I do, she says. I’ve seen what’s out there. We’re not great but we’re still better. We’ve always been better. We have a right, she says,
No, not a right, a responsibility, she says.
To being better.
We have the burden to save the rest of them.
It’s not easy, she says.
Lots of people have lost their lives making this world a better place.
So you really think we were chosen? he says.
God loves America. It’s our job to make the world better.
He nods, yeah, he says. You’re probably right.
Besides, what does Putin know?
He likes to take pictures with his shirt off.
He’s not bad looking, she says. For an old Russian guy.
Despite Its Size the US is Not as Diverse a Country as We Like to Think
Herding twenty five toddlers into the center of the library playroom,
one little girl is still sitting her in grandfather’s arms.
I kneel down.
You want to play with the toys with the other children?
I ask her
and she nods slowly, her eyes a little red.
No that’s fine, her grandfather tells me,
she’s fine here, he says, his arms wrapped around her.
Are you sure, I ask him.
He says, You from Brooklyn?
No, I grew up north of here, in a small town.
Lucky you, he says.
Bensonhurst used to be a small town,
till all those goddamn Chinese showed up.
And them, Arabs, he says,
waving his hand over
the pile of toddlers screaming over the Lego bricks
and toy trucks.
No more Italians, he says. We were here first.
We made this country
and now all these goddamn Chinese and Arabs move in
chase all the decent people out.
Yellow invasion, he says laughing.
But then he frowns,
Ain’t safe, I tell ya,
Ain’t safe for my granddaughter.
She shouldn’t be playing with these kinds.
He shakes his head.
What the hell happened to this country, he asks.
Where all the decent people gone?
Where are all the good people who built this country.
Christ, he says,
I’d even take an Irish bastard.
Even When We’re Relaxing, We’re Watching the Clock
Tomorrow, we tell ourselves,
is not going to be like today.
Tomorrow we will have the time
to stare at the wall
and think of something other than
and all the missed opportunities
we could have had
if only we had more time.
When All Conversation Fails There Are Always Sports and The Children To Fall Back On
The party host asked what I did and when I told her, she raised an eyebrow.
I didn’t think people still became librarians, she said with a smile. I think it’s sweet, she added.
“Oh, don’t be fooled, Ally’s not like a regular librarian,”
my sister-in-law says, rubbing her pregnant belly.
“She goes to Paris.”
This elicits oh’s from the women around me,
their mouths puckered, their fingers clutching
their virgin martinis.
I’m probably getting laid off, I tell them. Cutbacks.
We figured we should go before we lost the chance.
Before we’re homeless, I want to add.
Addicted to drugs.
Anything to not sound like the kind of person that can just pick up and go to Paris.
Because good paycheck/bad paycheck weeks were not that long ago.
I remember rationing cigarettes and eating nothing but ramen.
I wish I could go to Paris, she says again, rubbing her belly.
But you’re having a baby, I say,
that’s even better.
You could have a baby, she says. It is not a suggestion.
Then I couldn’t go to Paris, I mention and try to pass off a laugh,
but the room is quiet.
Yes, I nod. I could have a baby. I say it because it’s what they all want to hear.
Even though it’s the last thing in the world I would ever do.
If we aren’t all doing the same thing
there is a chance that their choices are not the only choices
and that upsets
of the planet.
Satisfied my sister in law turns to the host, Claire, isn’t your girl starting kindergarten this year?
Squeals abound, and then pictures come out and for brief moment, I am happily invisible again.
I slip out of the room,
open the cabinet
and drop a shot of vodka
into my virgin martini
before coming back to pretend to
coo over little Aubrey’s photos
and her blonde curls
and watch the clock and wait to leave.