Another Immigrant Story

by Holly Karapetkova

In the 1980s you were a movie star in a small Eastern European country. You played a prince, an attendant lord, and other roles of note. We watch them on YouTube. “That’s me,” you say, though it really isn’t—not anymore. You have to point yourself out because none of us can recognize you, the muted color of 30 years passing. On screen you watch the war escalate. You save a young girl’s father and bring him back home, you travel through a mysterious tree to an underworld where everything happens backwards. This is long before you were beaten in a cell, before you escaped, a refugee moving toward something invisible. Before the refugee camp, before you tarred roofs, drove a limo, delivered pizza, anything to make a living. There you are, so young you could be my child; no real harm has come to you yet that you didn’t inflict upon yourself. You smoke on screen. Everyone smokes. Those beautiful dancers crowding the room. Then the movie ends and the credits roll and your name is there in that other alphabet, a strangeness we let fall into silence.

 

Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from Bulgarian have appeared recently in Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and many other places. Her second book, Towline, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize and was published by Cloudbank Books.

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