American Immigrant Literature

Online Texts

American Dream: First Report

Joseph Papaleo


First nobody liked us; they said we smelled

and looked too short and dark.

Then the TV proposed marriage, and we said yes.

Momma and sisters kept the commercials going,

to prove we were married in the palaces of soap.


Who would have guessed that the end

of those voyages, the agony of steerage,     [part of a passenger ship for passengers traveling at cheapest rate]

insults from the Yankees, the tenement rooms   [Yankees = English of New England; tenement = slum]

without windows, like fish cans,

the penny pinching fears of the bosses

would end this way, as well-dressed citizens

devoted to the disinfection of our carpets,

as the culminating dream of Grandpa

(who liked to spit on floors while he talked)?