Last night, during a live streamed reading at the Green Kill Gallery here in Kingston, New York, I pulled one of my favorite tricks on myself. I left the second page of the poem I'd planned to read last at home, somewhere in the piles of creation that are my life. I promised to post it here, to prove that it really exists:
Happy Birthday, America
There is no pencil big enough to rewrite the history we have committed
these two past centuries and change.
In school, we anointed rich, white men that
mailed their demands to the rich, white King
while the first huddled masses fought the fight,
while bought-and-paid-for Africans tended crops,
cleaned their toileted mansions, suckled their young
of various races to preserve the lily-white bosoms
of their women, birds of another feather in
their gilded antebellum cages.
There are no fireworks glorious enough
to soothe the nerves of a soldier who’s endured
the real thing, or a dog who can’t distinguish
in her faithful brain the difference
between good and bad gunfire.
The Constitution never stopped a back alley beating
of a woman whose perfume didn’t match her crotch.
The Constitution never cleared things up with a cop
pulling over a black man just for driving
a car above his station.
Hot dogs and hamberders this Fourth of July,
socially distanced testimonials,
Hamilton rapping for those with the right connections,
another imperfect Father.
I saw his wife Eliza’s wedding ring in a museum,
where all matters Colonial belong.
Tenuous sliver of gold, tiny as her busy fingers were,
she wore it long after his honorable death,
rewrote and revised his history, her pencil big enough
to remember the good, make way for better