America, I Love You

America, I love you:

you’re Peggy Lipton in Mod Squad,

you’re Patti Smith in the ‘Piss Factory’,

you’re Cary Grant and Sidney Poitier,

Arsenic and Old Lace

and the Lilies of the Field,

my grandmother and I

watching you on the television,

laughing and finding holiness

and beauty in a prayer.

You’re the fast talk and fists

of Muhammad Ali,

all the heavyweight boxers 

of the twentieth century

whose names and stories 

I knew by heart,

so heroic and broken down.

You’re the poems of Gil Scott-Heron

and Robert Lowell and Charles Bukowski,

each man singing of his street,

the junkie twilight, the Nantucket graveyard, 

the booze and unripe corn.

You’re New York in winter 1999,

a very light snow falling

on Christmas morning 

that I taste on my tongue,

above me a billboard 

with Jackson Pollock

drip painting

as if he were lunging from the sky

to flicker me with white enamel 

using only a stick 

and the cosmic weight of history – 

‘The MOMA Exhibition’.

You’re Carson McCullers 

and the story of a girl growing up,

you’re Robert Kennedy’s blood

and the panic of a crowd,

you’re the first time I saw a man

ever get killed for real

sitting as a child, cross-legged

on the lounge-room floor,

getting it in the eyes, live.

You’re Apollo 11 and a flag

and skipping on the moon,

you’re The Doors 

loud on the turntable 

grooving for peace and murder

on the sex of a Saturday afternoon.

You’re the Vietnam I grew up on

like some form of malaria 

that got in my dreams 

and left me with 

apocalypse-now eyes.

You’re Nirvana inspiring,

a band like friends I knew

that somehow got 

to the top of the world

and reversed their way 

In Utero 

into shotgun garage seclusions.

You’re Bewitched and Happy Days,

you ARE my childhood smiling.

You’re Tom Waits talking for me 

in a telephone interview 

about Swordfish and Trombones,

you’re Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man 

floating out to die 

in a burning canoe

like I would wish to do.

You’re Bob Dylan

tangled up in blue,

longing to be young 

and being young

teaching me how to dream.

America, I love you,

you’re so much of everything 

that is me and my world.

And now the man at Rushmore

with a stone in his soul

and gold for skin

is taking you down 

into the valley of guns 

where God and democracy die.

It is the climax of the movie,

violent and complex and unsure,

with high buildings 

and clouds pursuing,

and an escape through

the fierce and strange mesas

of a John Ford film,

the red sandstone 

where God shaped the West

into great sublime beings 

watching you make it through 

into the arms of Katherine Hepburn

and Cormac McCarthy,

your stern but loving parents 

who cut time up into quarters 

like an orange 

and tell you to suck on it,

taste it, sweet and sour,

the juice from California,

the orange as spiritual 

and absolute and full 

of peace and struggle

as a Mark Rothko painting.

Don’t kill yourself America.

Don’t go mad. 

Don’t lose faith 

in your art.

I’m putting on a Joni Mitchell record,

Hejira, following

the difficult journey she made,

and I am once again

light and heavy,

wishing I were

like that coyote Sam Shepard,

floating on a bass line 

to walk the girders

of the Manhattan skyline 

with little Indian kids, 

believing forever 

in your poetry and love.

– Mark Mordue ©