Peter Neil Carroll
American Dream

Shouldering window glass, unlit
cigarette in his lips,
a youth enters a side street,
Minsk, 1904.

The aproned shop girl Mata
watches him pass. He doesn’t know
yet but in time he’ll become
my grandpa, married to Mata at 18.

Minsk, another stop on his road.
The itinerant glazier stays, he says,
for Mata’s cooking and the revolution.
Amid conspiracy, Cossacks shoot
into a secret meeting. Nearly killed,
he leaves for America.

Poor then and ever after,
stealing ship’s food, he arrives
in New York, marvels at insatiable skyscrapers,
their greed for glass. His trade lives
in his hands, splits from splinters,
bones shattered by faulty ladders.

What he finds in America he told
ever after, a recurring dream—awakening
inside a vault filled with pennies—stuffing
his pockets—entering another room piled
with nickels—leaving behind pennies,
taking nickels, then with dimes in the next room,
reaching quarters, dumping again, re-filling

then, he says, I woke up with empty pockets.