How To Be An American poem

Individual Liberty, in the American Mind, Became Synonymous with America, and Americans Consider Themselves the World’s Freest People

There is a crowd of tourists

blocking the subway turnstiles

at Union Square.

They can’t figure out which way

to swipe their Metrocard

and I’m thinking to myself,

this is why tokens were better


when the cop taps me on the shoulder.

I stare at him

a little confused

and realize that even though

I peed at the bar before we left

I think I might have to go again.


“We need to check your bag,” he tells me,

pointing to his partner

at the table.

At first I’m confused

and then annoyed

but I comply

because he’s a cop

and if he says he needs to check my bag,


It must be true.


I drop it on the table

and the female cop

glares at me,

her tight face

under her little hat

and suddenly I hate her.


“Open it. Remove the contest of your bag, ma’am.”


I sigh loudly

because now I’m pissed

and from it

pull the new jacket I bought

at Old Navy because it’s getting cold

and I don’t have a jacket

and the empty plastic water bottle.


“Good enough?” I ask

before ramming the contents back in my bag.

It’s a pretty shoddy search

as far as searches go.

If I had a bomb

I could have folded it in the coat

or slipped it in the pocket.


She doesn’t look in there

never even touches the jacket

because she doesn’t really want to know.

I’m just here to fill

the White Girl Quota for the day.


They’ve been doing this since 2005

and I’ve never been stopped.

Sure I’ve seen the police, standing like SS

hands folded, eyeing us from under their hats

but we’ve all just accepted it.

It’s the price of freedom, we tell ourselves

or those that control our freedom

tell us

and we agree.

Because we’re Americans and nothing if not agreeable.

Either way, you wouldn’t be worried unless you had something to hide right?

Isn’t that true? Isn’t that what they ask you if you protest?


“Everything okay, Osama?” my husband asks me

as I rejoin him,

now pushing past the tourists,

slipping through the turnstile

and catching the N train back to Brooklyn

just before they close the doors

thinking to myself

so help me god,

if I had missed this train…..


By Ally Malinenko

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not. I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered. I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died. I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote some novels. You can read them.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s