kastellaun germany
A Stranger in My Home Town
by Katley Demetria Brown

Reverse culture shock
hit me as soon as I landed
at JFK airport.
I had lived for four years in Germany
It was time to face a new reality.

I was back in New York.
Although I was born there
I didn’t belong.
I was a stranger to my family.
They didn’t understand why
my husband and I spoke German
on the ride home from the airport
or why we wanted to go to bed
at five in the afternoon,
our clocks still on Central European Time.

Was the Bronx always this dirty
with litter and dog waste in the streets?
Was it always this loud?
Every night there were bright lights
the sounds of city traffic
the noise of elevated IRT trains.
Why did I leave Germany?

I felt disoriented for weeks.
I wasn’t ready for the big city
After living in a small town
for so long.
I missed my German friends.
and the little apartment
with the view of castle ruins
from the 13th century.

I was a stranger in a strange land.
It took months to get re-acclimated
to New York and
find a job
find an apartment
and find my place
in the city I had once called home.

PHOTO: Kastellaun, Germany.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This move was very difficult for me because Kastellaun, Germany, was a totally different world from New York City. In the late 1970s my husband was in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Hahn Air Base (now a civilian airport). Instead of base housing, we chose to live in Kastellaun, a small town about 12 kilometers from Hahn. I very much enjoyed living among the German people and as a result, got to be quite proficient in the language. When my husband got his discharge, we moved back to New York City. After living in Kastellaun for four years, it took a long time to readjust to urban life. It’s true that you can’t come home again.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ABOUT HER CREATIVE PROCESS: I get inspired when I least expect it. Ideas can come any time; I can be out on a walk, sitting in a doctor’s office or having a dream. Sometimes they just pop into my head. One time I was in a friend’s apartment in the Bronx and roaches ran out of the oven when she turned it on to bake a cake. I created a funny poem out of that.


Katley Demetria Brown
was born in New York City. Her poetry has been published in a number of Internet and print publications. Her specialty is poetry with a touch of humor. She has lived in a number of places including: the Bronx, New York; Minot, North Dakota; and Kastellaun, Germany. She currently resides in Springfield, Massachusetts.

PHOTO: The author with Bavarian Lion in Downtown Manhattan (April 2016).

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: I took a bus trip to New York City in April and found a German restaurant near Battery Park. There was a big Bavarian lion in front, and I had my picture taken with him. This symbolized my connection with New York and Germany.