My mother and father and I had been lost in the casino 
in Reno for a long time now 
so had taken to riding an elevator 
between floors, between the neon stars 
of slot machines, of American loss

when we were joined by a man with a hole 
in his neck: an American, clearly, because 
he held a cane tenderly, and because his body 
resembled a set of golf clubs in a suit and because 
I was not afraid until he tilted his leather face at us

and unzipped his eyes; or until the dark nest 
in his neck began moving; or until his hands 
slid from his cuffs and held his own throat 
and a voice buzzed inside him. Then I was afraid

then our silence made a condemned building 
of us all. A tremor went through my father’s flying hat 
which he wore for he wished others to know 
we were here for the air show. 
We had been lost for a long time now

in the casino in Reno and there was not a one 
of us who might assist this throatless man 
for we were too busy taking the prize of him home: 
in America are humans who have dark matter 
inside them, who run on batteries, who speak

with the voice of Death’s personal computer. All down the years 
I heard my father shouting ‘I’ve never heard anything like it’; 
he was doing the voice, all down the years 
the voice of the elderly gentleman who also 
was lost in a casino in Reno.

Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington. Her first book of poems, Magnificent Moon (Victoria University Press), was published in 2012. Her poems and essays have appeared in Hue & CryGriffith ReviewFive DialsSportTell You What and The Spinoff. An essay collection is forthcoming from VUP in 2016.

Young comments: ‘This poem is simply an account of a personal experience. I was 14, and was lucky enough to go on a trip to the United States. I was with my parents. Although parts of the trip were great, everywhere we went we left a trail of angry service people because my parents refused to tip anyone. Doors were slammed in our faces, taxi drivers yelled abuse as we departed, etc. The elderly man with the electrolarynx in Reno, Nevada seemed to cement my parents' conviction that this country was ridiculous and impossible to understand. For my dad though, it was great material – he loved to recount the story of the electrolarynx, while doing the voice.’

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