Daily Archives: August 18, 2016

How To Spell American

Spell it with two guns
and a coat of whitewash.

Spell it with three picket fences
and a wolverine trapped
under a left thumbnail.
Spell it with seven dirty words
and rigor mortis laid thick
between bricks.

Spell it with fifty-seven apologies
flavored with forgetting,
sixty-three apologies
blind to remorse,
one hundred and eleven apologies
offered on a dagger’s tip.  

Spell it original thirteen,
broken five hundred.  Spell it
three-fifths, spell it six-nineteen.  
Spell it nine-eleven; spell it with
a cloud over it, a strained 
flag, a lowered boom.

Spell it with two more guns
and a Nagasaki blister.  Spell it
with moon rocks and cratered
cities, dead kids, dead eyes
dotted with good flowers. 

Spell it with a burr. Spell it
with flanks quivering.  Spell it 
with pink dawn over gray streets
and a boat swift-rocking 
down a snow fed river. 

How to spell American:

with a cauldron. A melting pot
if you prefer. A bullet mold,
a fireproof suffrage, a vote
for steam over simmer, 
a last summer of drowsing bees.

Spell it,
respell it,
spell it,
respell it;

it’s not like anyone knows
the correct way to pronounce it.


Young Slang

Neither do I young slang,
nor do I game. Not because
I am too old; I just know
and stick to my lane.

It is a path I own.
I will neither rise nor sink
beyond it. In there I still find
all the risk I ever did; more so,

now that I am farther along
than I ever believed I could go.
As though as it becomes
more rugged, more cliff-bound,

more broken, it becomes
more tailored to driving
my current steps and what
I need my stride to be.

As though my scant triumphs,
if you can call fighting
and scrambling for foothold
a series of triumphs,

have more and more to do
with what words I choose to
define, describe, honor 
my progress,

and I have too little time left
to reach back toward youth
and rob their tongues
to pad my own. 

I know my lane. I own 
my road. I do not need
young slang.  I do not 
game. I war. I climb. I am.