poetry The Americans
By Peter Neil Carroll
“The last Thursday in November…is the one day
that is purely American.” Sidney Porter (O’Henry)
After the turkey’s been sliced and swallowed, thoughts
turn to Thanksgivings past, years of hosting open house,
the old folks gone, reading O’Henry aloud to the kids,
but now my kids propose another post-prandial binge,
beyond boring pumpkin pie, to watch a TV series
aptly named The Americans about Russian spies,
based on “a true story” of a couple living in suburban
New Jersey, raising a typical American family as they
seduce clueless citizens and ferret government secrets.
Aliens by birth and training, the characters adjust easily
to indigenous lifestyles—pizza, burgers, TV and hang out
over beers with the man next door who happens to be
an FBI agent searching for spies. Their parallel lives
blur as family problems arise, their teens fall in love,
the real Americans get divorced, saddening the Ruskies.
Appearances aside, the spooks perform their dirty deeds
with shameless guile, lie to all, wear shades, wigs, beards
while showing gory expertise in murder and mayhem.
On this purely American day, nonetheless, I’m rooting for
the enemies, as the filmmakers apparently intend. Compared
to Pilgrim patriarchs, the evil-doers treat each other nicely.
This liberated mother grooms her daughter to succeed in
karate and espionage, shares the risk, danger and thrill of
defeating the impersonal bureaucracy run by dull men.
Even when trapped, our fugitives escape as smoothly as
Houdini slipped locks and chain. They are me in my wildest
fantasy of freedom, whipping Big Brother and the gods of law.
Peter Neil Carroll has published two new collections of poetry this year: Talking to Strangers: Poetry of Everyday Life (Turning Point) and This Land, These People. The 50 States which won the Prize Americana from the Institute for the Study of Popular Culture.