Coming Out of the Cold
BY JIM OWEN
I was assumed to be a spy when I was in seventh grade.
You see, I was an American living in Moscow, USSR,
And the oldest son of an American diplomat.
Accordingly, I was believed to be a threat to the Soviet Socialist Republic.
There were big, uniformed guards at the entrance to our apartment building,
Not so much to protect me from Russians,
But to keep track of my coming and going,
And to dispatch their spies to watch what I was up to.
You don’t believe me?
I was old enough, and had just enough Russian,
To go get a haircut on my own.
The barber shop was a few blocks away,
And I could walk there in just a few minutes.
Every time I went my guards would make a call,
So that two of their KGB agents could follow me.
They wanted me to know they were there,
Wearing coats on a warm day
When everyone else was in shirt sleeves,
Just in case I had any funny ideas.
I did have funny ideas.
I subscribed to Mad Magazine,
“Spy vs. Spy” was one of my favorite cartoons.
I was also reading Tolkien, books about Narnia,
And the great spy story, Kim by Rudyard Kipling.
Since I was sure my bedroom was bugged,
I used to talk and read things to my walls,
My very own information counter-offensive.
I wanted Them to know
That I knew They were there,
That I could play the Game too,
And I wanted to expose Them to the corrupting influence
Of a 12-year-old American Spy.
Jim Owen and his mother in front of their first apartment building. They were forced to move when the building was condemned.
The Kremlin Tower and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
The view from their new apartment.