A departure from transportation

I found this poem on someone’s frontyard poetry post a month or two ago, and was so struck by it that I memorized the title and author and looked it up again when I got home. Now, it seems more important than ever.

I cried when I read it out loud.

I’m still hopeful. But I’m realizing more and more that “hope” isn’t simply a blind belief that everything will turn out okay. Hope is believing that things are still possible, and then rolling up your damn sleeves to make them so. I believe in the still hopeful American of this poem, not the blind bully.

(And a ghazal, in case you’re curious, is a form of poem, Arabic in origin, with set rules about structure and meter, brought to prominence by such poets as Rumi and Hafiz.)

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Ghazal: America the Beautiful

Alicia Ostriker, 1937

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America

Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America

We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

One Comment:

  1. Powerful stuff.

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