Song I Sing
America, you were brave once,
decent, almost pure, but never quite
the myths you tell yourself.
Is this the karma from centuries of bloodshed,
lands pilfered, women raped, men murdered,
lynching, assassinations, race riots, class inequality?
You name it, we have it.
You want Coca Cola? You want heroin?
You want coke? Me love you long time.
What’s a little bit of sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll,
legalized murders and colonialism in the name
of democracy, which is just a fancy name
for imposing our definitions on those
with a different set of definitions.
A war is a war however you name it,
just like a murder is a murder however
you spin it. Thus anger screams for justice
on the streets of Los Angeles,
Chicago and Minneapolis,
the fire of unfulfilled dreams burning
across your once great land.
Meanwhile the pandemic death toll reaches
100,000 and counting.
They say bodies pile as high
as the flag, not enough plastic bags,
lying against walls of mobile mortuaries,
not enough space in local cemeteries.
There’s talk of making burial grounds
in local parks where children used to play..
There’s talk of reopening the economy,
money valued over human life,
business as usual, the old American way.
Is America going mad or am I going crazy?
I’m tired of reading the news these days.
I’d rather take my daughter to the park,
ride swings with our feet against
the bright burning sun, go down slides
and scream our hearts out, laugh
like the little children we all are.
I want to smoke hash with Allen Ginsberg,
grocery shopping in search of Whitman,
talk poetry, Buddhism, and God,
all of which are the same thing, a celebration
of the human Godhead, the human breath,
the Atman in all of us. Love
ourselves. Take good care.
America, I love you even when you spit
at my Asian brothers and sisters,
throw rocks at their cars, accuse
them of carrying the “Wuhan virus.”
When I speak, you don’t hear.
Some don’t believe that I should be here,
a place at the table, where professors
profess, poets sing, students evaluate.
I have no wisdom here. Only this.
The birds soar high in the bright blue sky.
Everything is blue, crystal clear.
The air is clean. Those birds,
they are singing their songs again.
Oh, I love you all. In spite of it.
I love you all. I just can’t do otherwise.
About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of Gruel, And So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (a chapbook with Joanna C. Valente, Yes Poetry). He teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY. He tweets @BunkongTuon
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Image Credit: “American Flag” Harris and Ewing [between 1915 and 1923] The Library of Congress