Ally Malinenko

Americans Are Not on the Whole Well Informed on World Matters

She has many questions about our culture, but she is shy and nervous.
It takes a few beers before she turns to my husband in Plaza Santa Ana
and says,
Why do the poor people support Republicans?
I mean, she says, in Spain, we protest when our government fails us.
But in America, poor people like to have less.

My husband smiles,
they don’t like it, he says, but
they don’t want to admit that they have less
and they want to believe that they too
can become millionaires one day.

Why? she asks.

Because they’re ashamed that they’re poor, I say.

But that is not something to be ashamed of, she says.
That is something to be angry about. Something to cause change.

Not in America, he says. There, there is nothing worse than failure.

She frowns. Europe is not like this, she says.
We do not want to be unhappy but we are not afraid to say that we are.

Well, my husband says, Americans aren’t as smart as Europeans.

She eyes him one more time,
takes a sip of her beer
and says,

You two, you are not Americans. You are really Europeans.

Ally Malinenko is the author of poetry book The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the children’s book Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). She lives in the part of Brooklyn voted to have the best halal truck.

Author’s note: “[This poem is] from the How to Be An American series that I have been working on. The titles are variations on sentences from Culture Shock: USA a book by Esther Wanning written to acclimate new Americans to our culture. It is a collection of sweeping generalizations about this country that ring so true it’s both hilarious and frightening.”