Not Roses

Katia Raina

Massive line at JFK immigration. They should charge a visitor tax and eliminate lines. Oh, wait...
Photo Credit: Daragh Ward

“Immigration is
Not Roses,”
warned the sour-faced
Russian guy
at the JFK airport
as he directed us,
new arrivals,
to crowd
into our own

Not roses.
I didn’t want to
believe him.
But—not roses—
we stood too close
to him,
listening to instructions,
and his breath smelled
like anything but.

Not roses,
not exactly
a super-chipper American
greeting, but he was right,
Immigration is anything but.

Immigration is
so much brighter
than anything found
in a rose garden,
Immigration is
neon signs,
multi-shaded faces,
oranges in the spring,
cherries in the winter.

Immigration is
not about
it’s more about
and new washbasins,
a perfectly matching set of chairs
someone had left on the curb,
just for us.

Not roses but Mandee’s,
denim jackets, low necklines,
bursts of music from strangers’
Madonna competing
with Nirvana.

Immigration is
suddenly underage
all over again,
no wine allowed,
though there are ways,
can’t have wine,
can’t hold hands with Mama,
but there are hands,
other hands.

Immigration is
the clatter of the subway,
the announcer screaming out
station names
in bewildering bursts,
pure sound,
the garbled syllables
softened up all strange
in strangers’ mouths,
and the louder they speak,
the wilder their words,
how can that be English?

Immigration isn’t roses,
it isn’t dainty,
it tastes
like fries and gum
coating the tongue of a stranger,
under the lonely

of my dreams.

pencilAn immigrant from the former Soviet Union, Katia Raina was an award-winning newspaper journalist, with fiction and non-fiction published in Faces, Calliope, Skipping Stones and other magazines. An intern at a literary agency, with plans of continuing her publishing career on “the other side of the desk” as well, she is now finishing her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts this coming semester. She writes novels and short stories for young adults, and verse for audiences of all ages. Email: katiawrites[at]

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