Distant Homeland by Joseph S. Pete
The inchoate Macedonian teen,
Little more than a tender sprout,
Untested and provincial,
Set sail alone across the Atlantic
Into a great unknown
So he wouldn’t be conscripted into the Ottoman Army
And pressed to serve in the Great War
For a foreign cause that meant nothing to him.
After Ellis Island butchered his surname,
He set out for a burgh he had never heard of,
Where a pamphlet claimed
There was work aplenty awaiting for strong backs.
He got hired on at a hulking steel mill,
Shoveling coal into a hellfire blast furnace,
And married a prim Polish lass.
Their son grew up in a company town
Where they planted roots
And got a standardized education in company schools
And got hired on at the paternalistic mill himself
And wed an Irish/Dutch/Serbian/Native American mutt
The wayward voyager’s grandson
Who defected across the roiling expanse of an ocean
Later stumbled on a recipe online
For Macedonian stuffed peppers
That he made with his Greek/Irish/Scandinavian/Italian mutt wife.
“Aren’t you part Macedonian?” she asked while grating
Spanish Manchego cheese she liked better
Than what the recipe dictated.
It was the closest
He ever came
To his ancestral heritage
Or his homeland.
A single generation
Can be an ocean of time,
Boundless and inscrutably vast.
About the author:
Joseph S. Pete is an Iraq War veteran, an award-winning journalist, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on his local NPR affiliate. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His work has appeared in Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Fictitious, The Blue Collar Review, The Five-Two, Lumpen, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pour Vida, Pulp Modern, Zero Dark Thirty and elsewhere. He once Googled the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. True story, believe it or not.