I wrote the poem below before we went to war in 2001, and when the country felt so divided and angry that it was impossible to feel at home in this country. I lived in a small apartment with T and wrote overlooking the backyards of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. All this sad and colorful laundry hanging from the line. I really wanted to LOVE America, but was so very disheartened by the current state of affairs that I thought I might have to move. That's what this poem is about. It appears in the first book, Lucky Wreck. Now, though we are still a divided country, I feel like those little houses in the back are waving their swallowtail-flags and getting a bit more notice, opening their doors to welcome in something new. Happy 4th of July!
The Frontier of Never Leaving
If the wound you cover is made of sheet metal
and iron gates left over from the junkyard of
of Forever Worried, and the school of Always Broken,
here, I have saved you a seat. If you have hidden your
outlawed books in your mattress and your outlawed
thoughts in your hands, here, I will give you refuge.
This is what I heard underneath it all, underneath and in the
beginning but now let’s move to Canada. I hear it’s nice and
they don’t kill each other as often. I can even forgive them for speaking
French. Really, not all of them speak French. But would I miss it?
If I move to Canada, and there’s no war in the Spring
I won’t miss Iowa, that’s for certain, but it’s the only thing.
The fields keep growing longer like a veil between us,
the mountains like sutures on the map, and yet they are
ours, the way mustard can be ours off the highway
and windmills in the deserts and roads, even roads. Barbed
wire between us, fences between us. The roadrunner has
run into the river and Misters, you do not care. Another puzzle
piece of my American map has unfolded. I am the only
thing that fits together here, in this frontier of Never Leaving.
Today, I am going to play the record of the revolution,
everybody is going to sing along and the more we turn it up,
the less the flag will wave over you and the more it will
become a swallowtail and migrate to our houses, the little ones
in the back, the ones with the lights in the window. Look!
You can see them now, opening their doors in the fog.