AMERICA

I promised to share this piece a while back, and I didn’t, and didn’t, and didn’t. asked me about it, and I confessed that I have mixed feelings about it. I wrote it in response to someone else’s poem, and while I’m glad the poem exists, I’m not entirely comfortable with it coming from my pen. Sometimes we write stuff that feels right, and it still makes us uneasy. This is one of those pieces for me.


AMERICA

My name is America,
And I am not your fucking boyfriend.
I am the father of your father’s fathers’ fathers,
Not some sad-faced mope you can force
to sleep on the couch
Whenever you’re mad at me.
Don’t worry: your bed holds no interest for me.

Don’t bother talking to me as if I was some pretty boytoy
With emotional difficulties
and an unwillingness to commit.
I’m not interested in your petty fantasies.
I’ve got reality to deal with,
And Lady Liberty has been my lover long enough
That no fresh-faced model turns my head.

We are not kind to one another,
She and I leave terrible scars on each other,
great gaping wounds,
And I am jealous of her when she takes other lovers.
For her I spilled the blood of your grandfathers,
And I raped southeast Asia for fear
the commies would get her.
I will do violence again for the sake of your gas tank.

Lay every crime you like at my door, I care not.
Genocide, Slavery, Racism, War, Capitalism, you name it,
And I probably did it: for your sake,
and your father’s sake too.
I have battled that you might have freedom to hate me
And hate me even under my own roof,
Where every other nation would gag you
or slay you out of hand.

I have made you, my children, my beloved children
The envy of the whole world,
given you liberty and prosperity,
So that now, even in hard times, even you poorest,
own more than any other people in the world.
I have given you the vote to elect your morons for leaders,
to vote idiots and war-mongers in the seats of power.

Yes, I am violent. Yes, I am dangerous.
Yes, I am difficult and stubborn and obnoxious.
But you are ignorant, or careless, to presume
You can order me about like a love-sick puppy-faced boy.
I am America, that’s the United States, to you,
And I am a bastard so that you might be free.

So take my gifts and drink of all my bounty,
Punch me in the gut and stab my kidneys.
Criticize my governance
and stay away from your voting booth;
Scorn your rights and ignore your prosperity;
Barter away my greatness for ignorance and foolishness.
I am America, two hundred years old and counting,
and you will miss me terribly when I am gone.

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16 comments

  1. I like it

    … in fact, I like it more than many of the other things of yours I’ve read. Your hand is freer with this one. It’s felt. When this voice speaks again, follow it. Scribe for it.

  2. I like it

    … in fact, I like it more than many of the other things of yours I’ve read. Your hand is freer with this one. It’s felt. When this voice speaks again, follow it. Scribe for it.

  3. Re: I remember this one.

    Oh, I quite agree.

    I guess what I would say to this United States is this: I’d love it if you actually were what you claimed to be.

  4. Re: I remember this one.

    It’s a response to a piece by , of course. I should have mentioned that in the opening, but it was late, and the thought was to get it up on the site quickly.

    As far as its conclusions, I’m not entirely clear that I agree with some of the poem’s conclusions. I am reasonably convinced that the vast majority of us will not like whatever replaces the United States. I did try to imagine what America as a whole could say and would say, and I don’t have to agree with Uncle Sam’s politics or policy to recognize when I’m confronting an Elder — a being who cares not at all for my opinions and insists on respect even on those days when I hate his guts.

    And all the poem is supposed to do is make people think. As I said to , if it persuaded, it wouldn’t nearly so strong or useful a piece.

  5. Re: If it makes you uneasy…

    good. It’s supposed to make you feel uneasy. If it’s any comfort, it makes me uneasy too. I’m not sure I would really want to be alone in a room with this poem, myself. And it’s not supposed to sway anyone. if it did, then there would be a problem, because it’s supposed to cause thought, not persuade.

  6. Reading this makes me feel uneasy, it churns up all the weakly settled thoughts about this country. Your poem expresses a duality that is very realistic in my mind. It doesn’t sway me, just helps me to realize how i really see things. thank you.

  7. Reading this makes me feel uneasy, it churns up all the weakly settled thoughts about this country. Your poem expresses a duality that is very realistic in my mind. It doesn’t sway me, just helps me to realize how i really see things. thank you.

    • Re: If it makes you uneasy…

      good. It’s supposed to make you feel uneasy. If it’s any comfort, it makes me uneasy too. I’m not sure I would really want to be alone in a room with this poem, myself. And it’s not supposed to sway anyone. if it did, then there would be a problem, because it’s supposed to cause thought, not persuade.

  8. I remember this one.

    I like it; I like the ambivalence of it, the acknowledgement of what’s been done in freedom’s name.

    Of course, I disagree fundamentally with some of the conclusions, but that’s a longer argument than I care to make here, and not necessarily germane to my enjoyment of the craft of the poem. And it makes me think, which is valuable, of course…

    What did you think of the poem you were responding to? (I assume I know which one it is…)

  9. I remember this one.

    I like it; I like the ambivalence of it, the acknowledgement of what’s been done in freedom’s name.

    Of course, I disagree fundamentally with some of the conclusions, but that’s a longer argument than I care to make here, and not necessarily germane to my enjoyment of the craft of the poem. And it makes me think, which is valuable, of course…

    What did you think of the poem you were responding to? (I assume I know which one it is…)

    • Re: I remember this one.

      It’s a response to a piece by , of course. I should have mentioned that in the opening, but it was late, and the thought was to get it up on the site quickly.

      As far as its conclusions, I’m not entirely clear that I agree with some of the poem’s conclusions. I am reasonably convinced that the vast majority of us will not like whatever replaces the United States. I did try to imagine what America as a whole could say and would say, and I don’t have to agree with Uncle Sam’s politics or policy to recognize when I’m confronting an Elder — a being who cares not at all for my opinions and insists on respect even on those days when I hate his guts.

      And all the poem is supposed to do is make people think. As I said to , if it persuaded, it wouldn’t nearly so strong or useful a piece.

      • Re: I remember this one.

        Oh, I quite agree.

        I guess what I would say to this United States is this: I’d love it if you actually were what you claimed to be.

        • Re: I remember this one.

          Not to mention that the US is only an elder if I allow it to be — because it derives its potency from us, of course.

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