American Elegy

black-boxThis is not an elegy for America, the beautiful; America land of the free. It’s not an elegy for  geography, latitude and longitude, tectonic ’tis of thee.

The land, blooded and let, bartered for pretty trinkets, stolen for a woolen blanket and a few bottles of booze–she will remain. Purple mountains majesty, fruited plains. Red clay, cityscape, amber waves of grain, corn-fed, big sky. The land, she will survive. She always has.

This is not an elegy for a nation. A nation steeped in blood, built upon the yoke of broken promises and broken backs. Founded in revolution, fed by division, fueled by that trickle of hope left in Pandora’s box. The ghosts of America Past keep that nation alive. They rise, clanking their rusted chains, shimmering like so much heat above those ribbons of highway.

This is not an elegy for a president. His name will stay marked, bold and black, in the history books. No legislation, no course of action can erase his existence from the march of time. It is not an elegy for a leader, an office, or even a string of promises amplified by a Greek chorus of millions.

 

In America that rich, red clay has soaked up oceans of spilled blood–on battlefields and city streets, on living room floors and dirty make-shift beds. In America, when a child plays under a chestnut tree, above her head there are ghosts swinging from nooses tied round its limbs. In America, the skeletons of all those left behind dance along side the movers and the shakers, the farmers and the cowboys. In America, history is sodden with trails of tears.

That spilled blood runs through the veins of all of us, no matter what our vision is or was. You can’t escape history, cannot twist away from the truth no matter which way you caress it in the text of your history books. No matter how many untruths you heap upon it, no matter which new phrases you coin–it won’t take the scorpion sting out of the truth. You can’t turn your eyes away from the bloated face of a black man swinging from a tree, the bled out body of a woman in a dark back alley, the ravaged body of a teenage boy tied to a paddock fence, or the bullet holes in a seven year-old girl on a classroom floor–you can’t turn away from that simply because the alternative seems too insurmountable or unpalatable or difficult or it’s not your problem. You may think you can. But not for long. Not before it rises up to haunt you like so many clanking ghosts.

This is my American elegy–not for a country or a people or a nation, but for the gauzy future of a country I held close to my heart, even when I was not there. In that future, we acknowledged those ghosts, paid homage to the land we’ve ravaged and raped, paid tribute to the broken backs upon which we’ve all walked to get right here. In that vision, the skeletons of the past rose up to dance, leading us forward in that arc toward justice.

Today though, the skeletons are still, heads bowed. One step forward and four steps back; not so much a dance as a stumble.

Today, I wail and keen through words, in an elegy for an idea which seemed close to bursting forth through the earth and into the light. Today I recognize that idea was further away than I thought. Today I apologize to all of those who understood that before I did.

Today that much vaunted arc seems pretty damn far away.

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “American Elegy

  1. writerspilecki January 20, 2017 / 7:41 pm

    Thank you for your poetry. Every small balm helps us rise back up to take the next step forward despite the waves surging against us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dina Honour January 20, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      Vive la resistance. Take a breath, it’s going to be a long, hard slog.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dina Honour January 20, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      I wish I was writing something very, very different.

      Like

  2. Paul Grizenko January 22, 2017 / 1:51 am

    And yet, one day later, there is hope. Well over a million women and their loved ones, both young and old, came out in so many cities in the USA, and quite a few outside, to let the world know that there is more than one way of looking at things. Pink pussy caps – who would have thought that this is the new rallying cry? The dystopian nation described by Trump’s speech is a form of myth – harking back to a time that never really was, and glossing over many of the things you pointed out in your piece.

    Those former Democratic voters who turned to Trump because he promised “America will be great again”, and “American jobs”, will turn on him if (when?) it becomes obvious that they helped elect a globalist. The liberals will now join the blacks and coloured, the non-straight, the people who live on the margins, in feeling the hypocrisy and myth-making that kept them on the margins. In some way, this may in fact become the unifying feature – rejection of the comfortable myths and stories, acknowledgement of the actual history, with both its sordid details and brilliant accomplishments, and perhaps a growing sense of kinship that says together we are more powerful than those who seek so hard to divide us.

    Trump, and his administration may still surprise us, and veer off in a different direction than the one they seemed to be following during the campaign. If 140 characters of a Trump tweet issued at 3 am can wipe out billions of dollars of shareowner value, it is also possible (although, I admit unlikely) that a different tweet can bring back a sense of hope. But if he and his administration keep on the path we think they are aiming for, then those million women should be the seed that grows deep roots and gathers strength for the changes that are coming.

    As men well know, when Mama’s not happy, nobody is happy.

    Liked by 1 person

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