Daily Archives: July 4, 2022

American Poem

Revised from November 2021.

To write the American poem,

start from a nature image. 
Pretend you are the colonizer’s god;
purple the mountains up 
then chew the scenery until
there’s nothing left to suck from it.

Set the meter
to a rigged jig stepping lively
around myth and cynicism.

In every true American poem
one should be able to hear
exuberant ghosts dancing
to the sounds of babies crying,
screaming, cooing, gurgling,
while other ghosts plead 
not the babies, please. Leave
the babies out of it, so
precious, so innocent…

humbug. It’s the Fourth of July.
The Fourth of July
is built on dead children,
uses fireworks to justify
a war everlasting.

Every great American poem
should describe an America
over half of its readers
cannot recognize. A mirror
shows your reflection, 
a better one shows you your other side;
the best one shows you more than one.

The great American poem,
if it’s truly any good,
will burn you as if
in your overreach and hunger
you have knocked the chafing dish
on the table askew while grabbing 
at the Thanksgiving turkey
and all those wonderful sides

as the purple mountains above us all
look down wondering
where it all went wrong
as they see what it takes now

to write the great American poem.