The Cold War of My American Dream

It was in the sixth grade when
Sister Geraldine took us bad
listeners and day dreamers
out into the hall one afternoon
to repeat after her, one by one,
“The key to success is hard work.”
But what was bugging me like
a gnat flying back and forth
from my nose to my ear, and
what was keeping me ill occupied
and slumped in my seat weren’t
the words “hard work” but that
whole concept of “success.”
Fast cars and fancy homes
were nice, OK; and well-pressed
suits and shiny shoes looked cool
in the right light; but if success
was what it took to get there,
I thought, “Forget it, sister,
because as far as I can tell
the people who have all the shit
are the most boring people
on the planet.” But instead I said,
“No, sister, I’m not afraid of
hard work.” Because I was
too young to know how to speak
any other way; too young to say
that what scared me even more
than drugs, failure, and the bomb
was learning how to smile half a smile
to everyone every day; to hold my head
up straight with a soulless swagger;
the possibility of having it all like
in a dream and wanting more clouds, more
snow, more rain, because there are
never enough things falling from the sky.

-Jose Padua

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