Red–White–Blue

A poem about expat life

Denver airport

These colors signal safety, but I’m not so sure.
In customs and immigration, bright lights
twinkle above. No photos allowed
in this cavernous arena of desperation.

Welcome home, says the suit, daring me
to make a false move, as I reach
for my magic ticket.
Freedom an acrid taste, a stinging question.

Bleary-eyed, my skin one touch away
from bursting. A river of conflicting emotions
threatens overflow. Roast beef crimson cheeks
bely my state. Eyeballs smudged gray
with transatlantic smog, I walk obediently
towards destiny. U.S. citizens
right this way!

My smile curling like a dehydrated fern,
My jaw is gritted — I’m ready for the dentist.
Open wide! Teeth no longer glistening,
my tongue a dull ivory.

Powerlessness has an itchy quality.
You feel boundaries everywhere:
The spot where your panties
meets your groin, your sock band too tight
or slipping down into your shoe.
My knuckles grip the handles
of my purple carry-one,
As if to say:
This much is still within my grasp.

Indigo streams pulsing on my inner wrists.
I try to breathe it out, but the stinger
buries deeper. Where did this apple come from?
Red, shiny, and forbidden.
I should not have been honest
about the smuggled fruit.

It is in the small things where the snake
slips in. My luggage now open,
revealing my dirty laundry,
My hidden habits, and private priorities.
Latex gloves gently caressing my life.
These gifts and tokens of my explorations
Beyond the borders of the land of the free
Now seem a liability.
And so, I learn to keep secrets
from the motherland.

Only in America

Originally published in Parataxe Berliner Stadtsprachen Magazin

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I am interested in paradoxes, contradictions, people, culture, and being human. I write and translate DE-EN | MFA Non-Fiction. www.bettinahindes.com

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Bettina Hindes

Bettina Hindes

I am interested in paradoxes, contradictions, people, culture, and being human. I write and translate DE-EN | MFA Non-Fiction. www.bettinahindes.com

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