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America

“And when he saw a beautiful girl
  He walked over to her and said above the loud noise
  ‘Please let me talk to you and walk with you
  Because I am very lonely’
  But that young man was not me.”
    ~ Robert Paul Smith, “Small Quiet Song” from And Another Thing (1947)

Welcome
Say the statue and wall
Leading each other’s personality to fade
Till in blank awareness someone asks
Are humans meant to be independent social animals
Or oxymorons
Afraid of each other
Of the cruel the aloof the condescending
At each turn
We titillate ourselves
Through each skin cream ad trash novel chick flick
With its vicarious romance
Imagining ourselves in the coveted roles
Who can do more
Out of the two kinds of people
Those too numb too staidly orthodox too out to lunch
And those too weird too wounded too wary
To achieve the vulnerability
To fall

America, give birth no more
To the noble and the notable
To creative intellectuals
To prodigies and poets
To the brave and the free
To the peace-friendly
Who if ever they have a state touting its support for them
Wherever in the world it may be
Can count me there
To the truly independent
To the true
Whom you revile above all else
Till they leave your shores inwardly or outwardly
In the arms of foreigners
Leaving you
To achieve the healing
To fall

She sees two hunched figures
One leading a dusty broken-down cart
Blind
Head lowered and shrouded
The other following crippled and weak
Barely able to take a step
Leaning heavily on the cart as it sags
Beneath indeterminate weight
She wonders about meaning
Asks what I see
Well, I see it too

“What is it?”

“Could it be America?
  Its vision of itself
  That we’re picking up?”

“Why would America see itself this way?”

“Could it be that no one needs anyone
  So all are separated by machines
  Broken
  Downtrodden?”

“Why the blindness and disfiguration?”

“Could we give ’em a healing and find out
  Their higher virtue?”

Lending strength to vision
Our errand of mercy
Lifts the head of the leader
Restores sight and insight
He’s a handsome guy
And behind him now a sexy gal walks upright
The cart between them laden with the horn of plenty
Sharing its unending wealth through its bearers’ interactions
With each other
With the rest of the world
With love

“How could these resourceful people have ever allowed themselves
  To come to the ruin we’ve just seen?”

“How could men be so blind
  As to see themselves as rejects
  Or women be so role-reversed
  As to see themselves as victims?”

“Could it be
  That having allowed themselves to be used
  The people allowed their beauty to be stolen?”

“Could it be
  Because state and church aren’t separate
  When both carry the same message
  People are worthless
  Without our toothpaste hot rod fast food tennis shoes
  You’re nothing
  Without our Jesus
  You’re nothing”

“Aren’t you something
  When you’re consumer voter taxpayer churchgoer
  Part of the crowd?”

“Even then
  Who needs you?”

“Who collects your contribution for the day
  While you’re separate in your crowd
  Isolated conquered divided?”

“Is need such a bad thing?”

No more questions come to mind
I don’t know what comes instead for her
What comes for me is memory
Those days never ended
When the people I needed were hundreds of miles distant
America could be proud
Mine was the most independent of minds
Eschewing senseless banter
No drivel or dross here
Working my own space
Resenting every moment
When there were no friends
Often not even enemies
Through whom I might find out who I am
What I stand for
Nothing to talk to but computers or occasional ghosts
The ghosts of distant past
Don’t fade
Don’t transform to blank awareness
Don’t ask questions
Don’t despise the land that’s fed and supported you
Don’t trash it

Upon awaking the next morning
Long overdue
I grounded my hatred of North Carolina
Dropped all its ichor from its too-familiar contours
From mountains to beaches
Took with it the darkened sense I’d had of that entire space
As prison
Blew apart the old calcified images
Red bricks tobacco-stained concrete dark iron bars all smithereens
Unstoppered all that resentment
Drained all to the bottom
The notion that the people of the place are unloving
All my heart ever knew
Self-incarceration
Perfect safety
So long
Replenished are each and every speck of that red clay piedmont soil
With forgiveness
And the half-thought that an earthquake might ensue
She saw the shadows march from clear across America
Collect themselves
Suspended throughout the slopes below
Extended out over the bay
Unbounded array of undead climbing up toward her
As she stood with arms outstretched
Called forth the sun
Reached to embrace them
Kiss kiss kissed
Until they dissipated into the mists
Shrouding the madrones and firs
Playing among them
Watching each other fade
Turning to clear cool air
Softening cheeks through the day’s heat

“What was that all about?”

“They must’ve come looking for me”

“What have you done?”

“Nothing really”

That was the day when the last of the homes
My forebears would ever own
In that so-called north state
Which I knew in advance wouldn’t get the supercollider
But rather the nuclear waste facility
In those years before it would come to tout itself as the most military-friendly
In America
Found a buyer
After nearly three years on the market
Having relieved themselves of the need
To remain in that portion of Dixieland
They followed in my tracks
Arrived in Florida about a month after the darkened mist burned off
After I’d told them the story of that morning
That following Sunday
If she smiled I couldn’t tell
Over the phone
He never said a word

“Do you think nothing really had to do with getting that place sold?”

“How should I know?”

“I know”

“That’s why you’re here in America”

“I’m here with you”

Thanks always returns

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