I'm wondering what you had for lunch.
I had the sunrise sampler from Cracker Barrel.
Over easy eggs, and a slice of ham.
My friend, I had vegetable biryani.
The food of my people
Sort of. It usually has meat.
Succulent lamb, or juicy chicken
A platter in brownscale
And we sit on the floor and
we eat with our hands
Because it tastes so much better that way
But mine had onions, and carrots,
and colors I don't usually see in my mom's cooking
And I was using a spoon, when I have perfectly
And suddenly I was stuck
Trying to be who I wanted to be in a battle with
Who I was brought up to be
I saw a piece of plastic
Floating in the wind the other day,
and thought it was a butterfly
That felt like America to me.
What feels like America to you?
I had a piece of plastic in my Raisin Bran, and I guess that feels like America man.
I was told it was Budweiser and fireworks.
People and endangered birds.
I was told a lot of things I learned were dreams.
And I'm driving through Iowa to Nebraska, a fruited plain of not too much, and I can tell you here friend, the rest of America looks like the rest of America.
I can tell you a rest stop has the same atmosphere as most diners I've seen.
The same sized fly.
People wear the same damn eagle shirt for miles but nobody cares for the bird in flight.
I had a sunrise sampler,
...the food of my people, at the Cracker Barrel…
And suddenly I'm stuck
Trying to be who I want to be, in battle with who I was brought up to be.
I got off work today at noon
And I felt a sense of worry
Was I doing all that I could
For my family?
For my mom?
I felt like pursuing my dream
Meant denying them theirs
And suddenly I got buried
On my way to the redline
Noname told me:
“Don't fear the light
That dwells deep within
You are powerful
Beyond what you imagine
Just let your light glow”
And a smile grew
Like a rose in a field of weeds
Dirt and concrete
Melt into fresh morning cut grass
Greener than the biweekly reality check
I can do both.
Hope and love aren't mutually exclusive.
I hear Iowa is calm.
There isn't much, but
I kept my eye out for a baseball field.
I kept my eye out for angels and Kevin Costner,
I kept my eye out for you,
and I Woke up in Nebraska in the backseat where there were truck beds full of hay and trains being pulled by giant armadillos.
They've got hearts in their chests.
Worried about a deadline.
Some deadline, separating Nebraska and Colorado, where there are boulders to be pushed.
Like every rock my family became to give me something new.
I thought about you brother.
What would Nebraska gas stations do for you?
The flies, people, and jerky?
Nebraska gas stations
The flies, people, and jerky.
I don't know man,
It would remind me where I am
Lately I've had dreams of flying
Home for the winter
Climbing the Himalayas
That feel greener than I remember
I moved to America when I was three
And my only memory of the mountains
Is of this blue crib with two bottom drawers
Which I’m sure were filled with toys
I’ve been thinking a lot
About what home means to me
Is it about the roots of the trees,
or the view of the greenery
I've been told home is where the heart is
So I went looking
I think mine might be in a distant country
In a field of tulsi
In my grandma's garden
I'm on the road,
To my childhood home
To see my mom's smile
I'm on the road,
And see so many trucks
But not so many trees
Or at least not as many that my mind sees
I imagined a constellation of green
That mirrored the sky blue
-- oh wait, i just saw some purple --
I miss ya brother,
Hope your niece is doing well
Her smile in that photo on the wall
Feels like so much love
I closed my eyes earlier
and wanted to hold my niece
I think she's with my heart,
In the field of tulsi
I ask about gas stations because there are things in there you can get anywhere. I'm thinking of like coke, or the smell in every unwashed bathroom, or some cigarettes.
There's a kid who looks to be twelve in the subway in the station who looks like he's never smoked a cigarette.
I bet the cockroaches there scatter in panic
the same as they do in my kitchen,
when I turn the light on
You have cockroaches there?
There are so many dead in Nebraska. Lining the walls of the bathroom floor. One ply paper soaked in water, and what I hope isn't urine.
I'm looking to the blue ridge of a mountain and calling my sister in the front seat who's telling my niece about keeping things clean.
and brushed a cockroach
with about every finger
except my index.
But I still don’t know if I've actually killed one.
I'm not sure they die.
I used to let them crawl around my hand
Until it got too creepy
Just because I was curious.
But I was scared to let them get too close.
They seemed harmless.
But for some reason I thought they were
I guess if you think some way
For a really long time.
You perceive it to be true. ...to you.
I hear emotions aren't reactions.
From a woman named Lisa
who studied how we feel
for 25 years.
Emotions were at the forefront of her research.
That emotions aren't reactions to a world.
But how we construct the world.
Family met family today.
It felt like two homes coming together.
I used to play with ants and spiders and make them live together in the backyard of my suburban house.
I drilled holes into the lid.
That way the little buggers could breathe.
They normally died because I didn't know how to feed them.
I'm with my family in the mountains.
The mountains are blue, where the clouds and them are young and lovers.
Touching each other like ones about to cry.
I'm hiking up Agnes Vaille named after Agnes Vaille where a mountain let her slip and fall like her husband did when a horse kicked him.
I'm looking at the ground,
at the uprooted trees and boulders crushed into smaller boulders.
Where a moment ago the mountains fell...
...mountains are indifferent...
Like they could
And brush me off the face of the earth with the slip of one their kids.
My grandfather came to America when he was 16.
That's what Marga, my aunt says here while we're cutting into dinner.
We’re Knocking our heads back.
Laughing at the jokes he's retelling through us by memory.
Also his appreciation for tiny things.
He saved his work so we could come up here like we do every year.
He escaped Russians, and lived in occupied territory.
He traded 16 cigarettes for a single egg.
He has 22 barrels of uncracked wheat in the crawl space under Joliet.
Where I've lived for 23 years.
In America, where I knew nothing about that, or who he was then.
Or how he saw Hitler's in an art shop when he was 9 or 10.
The man saw evil cross the room and didn't know what to call it.
When he came to America, he became American, and I don't know if I like that.
What kind of food did he eat?
What kind of food isn't a hot dog and a red solo cup.
I thought he was paranoid you know.
I found a gun cabinet full of unopened bottles of vodka.
Just alcohol which he would would trade, if the Russians ever came.
And I realized as
We’re playing chess under the ceiling fan, he wasn’t teaching me to play chess, he was teaching me to play ahead, and have awareness, and be prepared.
Of the world, its state and how I fit into it.
What I have, and how to move forward.
He constructed a world, of silent preparation.
Like a house for a family.
He silently was living in fear of that world collapsing, like a boulder falling and crushing me and Agnes Vaille.
I'm leaving tomorrow onto a metal dragon.
Where cars will look like cockroaches.
On long stretches of indifferent streets made from tiny dried rocks.
My niece crawls into my lap asking me for poetry.
She cries in my lap, and continuously mutters
“but I'm gonna miss you boo boo.”
I say to her, what I've said to you friend.
“Goodbyes are the best part, they make the hellos so much sweeter.”
I want to say hello
So many more times
Than I've had to say goodbye
So many more times
Than all of my friends have had to say goodbye to loved ones in 2017 without the knowledge of when the next hello even might could be.
Because we have such specific ideas of the future
For the future
We have plans
That feel so real
That feel close enough that I don't need my glasses to see
But reality is,
Without my glasses
I can't see shit
And the future is as blurry
And as nebulous as a tree in the distance
I can see the trunk
But I can't see the leaves.
I still take my glasses off though
When looking at the night sky
Because the stars, though blurry
are so much bigger
The texture of their shine is so visceral
I can look up
And not have to worry about the future
When I look at those stars,
They feel big enough
For my grandma to be able to see
The same stars I see
And when I look up,
at the stars that look like crystals
The American soil feels
like it's pulling me away
from the star that my grandma and I are
The grass turns to quicksand that is taking way too long
So I close my eyes
And call my aunt in Nepal
The aunt that my grandma is living with
And I hear my grandmas voice
With all the love a grandma can hold
The capacity of love expanded decade by decade, like rings in a tree
To a point so exponentially large that a 22 year old could never understand
I hear her ask me if I've forgotten the stories she used to tell me when my feet where the size of madeleines
The stories of Krishna stealing a jar of butter
From a top a shelf that should've been to high for him to reach, and eating it like Winnie the Pooh devours honey.
I hear her ask me how all my friends are doing.
The ones that love her and the ones that
I don't talk to anymore.
Because like I said.
Her capacity to love is exponential.
I'm on my way back to our skyline now
When the body takes flight
And the mind follows
When you're in a metal bird
And the mystery of gravity
Seeps into your core
You feel heavier and lighter
All in the same breathe
And you know
You left your parents
But you're going home
I am on a plane, friend. Back to our skyline.
Our cement, granite, and marble village clad in glass and steel
swaying in the storms of shifting tides, the things we believe in.
Ideals handed down by people like your grandma, and my grandfather, people I love.
We are transforming into empathetic giants.
We will be tall like buildings, and will wave at the planes one of us will be on, away soon.
But I am on my way back, on a plane.
You called the other morning.
You woke me up, and apologized for doing so.
I haven’t heard from you since.
I thought that was funny.
I didn’t call you back.
I was swept up in the overwhelming current affairs of work and passion.
And know that when we end up at the finished table at dollop where we talk about the very pretty baristas, and talk to them about where we all came from, where we read books and poetry and the people we admire, we will celebrate each other for our success.
Because You fed me and I fed you when we didn’t have the means.
I will feed you the way storms feed our planet.
I will quit dairy, but never caffeine.
I will sing your praises and never let you down.
The past 24 hours have been rough
I've lost many things
Mostly sleep and money
You’ve been there for me
And for that I can't thank you enough
I've been thinking again about America, my friend
A place that prys on fear for profit
A land infested with
And systems that we try to overthrow with riots
But as Kate Tempest says:
“Riots are tiny though, Systems are huge”
Systems so big I feel like a needle in a haystack
I get lost, and swallowed up
I get hurt, and don't know how to ask for help
A supposed melting pot
Where people from all over the world gather
To follow the immigrant dream
of the American dream
A dream promised but always
just out of reach
The American dream for me
Is to sleep
And sleep, and sleep, and sleep
Until I realize that sleeping all day
Is a symptom of depression
And that my fatigue may not always be because
I am working too hard.
The American dream for me
May never be a reality
But isn’t the dream more of a myth
Some sort of duality
That balances hope and critical thinking?
Maria Popova says
That we need both because
Critical thinking without hope is cynicism
Hope without critical thinking is naivete
She’s so right
I want happiness
But Rebecca Solnit says
“Happiness is a fleeting condition”
I want a bridge,
That lets me travel continents
I want an American dream that
Lets me not worry about fiscal responsibility
I want everyone to acknowledge that our differences
Are what make us the same
James Joyce claimed that
“In the particular is contained the universal”
My American dream is to get everyone
to do what Kate Tempest begs us to do
“Wake up and Love more”
About the authors...
Abhi Shrestha is a Chicago based director/ dramaturg/ teaching artist/ writer originally from Kathmandu, Nepal. Abhi has recently assistant directed HOW WE GOT ON (Haven Theatre), WIT (The Hypocrites), PICNIC (American Theater Company), and WE'RE GONNA DIE (Haven Theatre). He is the Literary Manager at Haven Theatre, and the Resident Dramaturge and Community Organizer with the Chicago Inclusion Project.
David Stobbe is an actor and poet from the Joliet, Illinois, which is known for its prisons and high school symphonic bands. With a B.A. in Musical Theater, he finds a passion in writing about over-exposure. Whether that be sex, information, toxic masculinity, or the self he wants to explore the ridiculous and laughable nature of it all; In our everyday friendships, hookups, the material, all directly affected by casino-like universe in our hands. Through collaboration he wants to harness the potential of the internet, with all of its free content and explore the slow and naive nature of self actualization, romanticized history, selling yourself, and the ever vanishing line of sexuality.
Want to see more of David's work?
Check out David's work from previous issues: