I’m sitting on Holly and Kolya’s couch, watching Easy Rider.
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper traverse miles,
landscape changing from dust, red rock to lush Louisiana green.
Suddenly, I´m transported home -
a biker movie about the intolerant sixties South
makes me long for the fishy breeze of Lake Michigan
and the thick drawl of angry men in a redneck diner,
leaves me longing to hear the sounds of English
when I go out to buy milk or bread.
It’s April in Moscow.
Spring is only a promise in the chives I bought at the market
from an old woman with scarf and two gold teeth
who called me Devushka though I am hardly a girl
anymore. Beretye. Take them.
I pay her fifty kopecks, nibble them on the bus back to my dorm
their bitter green burning through my palate.
I’ve almost made it through this Russian winter.
Holly is from our Georgia, not theirs.
She got out of Savannah where nobody understood why she loved
men and women, both.
Right now she loves Kolya, a Russian man.
They live in this little apartment in a cement building on Lenin Hills,
Where Holly feeds me dinner, invites me to watch the American movies people
bring her from home.
Jack Nicholson with his southern accent
sounds like Holly.
But no nostalgia for her!
Kolya can’t believe it: 1980 and I still haven’t seen this film!
How could I miss it?
He’s amused that as I watch I’m longing for home.
He’s amused at how I savor the small town brass band,
the rancher and his passel eating outdoors in the sun,
the dust, the simple grace spoken by a naïve hippie
who has just sent bags of doomed seed into hard-packed clay
at my delight as if this film were a love poem to the workers of America.
Clearly I am missing the point.
Kolya tries not to ruin my enjoyment.
He sees I have no idea what is coming, this
unwelcoming America showering the Vietnamese with napalm
murdering in the South for the crime of integration
while Peter and Dennis and Jack were enjoying the wind in their hair on their bikes,
how this America will blast them, leave them bleeding, burning, dead.
Kolya is happy he’s too old for the Army.
Too old for Afghanistan.
He tries not to ruin the surprise ending for me.
But he can’t resist completely.
Right before the end
before Peter Fonda, his American flags, the jacket, the helmet,
his peaceful grass-smoking smile go up in the great conflagration
he turns toward me, head tilted, slight smile and asks:
Do you love your country?
- Deborah Adelman