America, I’ve heard the audio:
papa, papa, papa [unintelligible]
America, my childhood neighborhood
was called Freedom Colony.
I lived on Liberty Lane.
America, you are grand
in theory, poor in practice.
You are not what I learned
in grade school.
America, I’m proofreading
a book on your Constitution.
I’m considering the letter
of the law, the spirit of the law.
America, you’ve caged
even the babies. They cry
mostly in Spanish.
America, this is you.
America, what I miss most
about church are the hymns—
everyone singing the same word
at the same time. Even the bells
rang in unison.
America, I’m wondering
whom your laws serve, the living
or the dead.
America, are there cribs
for the babies? Bars within bars?
America, where does your conscience
live? I mean, from where
has it been removed?
America, as a girl I rode my bike
around the cul-de-sacs: Lexington,
Bunker Hill, Valley Forge.
America, I can pick the stars
and peel the stripes right off you.
America, I’m considering
the letter, the spirit.
America, there is no substitute
for conscience. I can still feel
the bells in my hands.
America, this is us.
America, we have taken children
from their mothers. We have separated
words from their meanings.
America, will there be neighborhoods
named for this undeclared war?
America, where are the babies?
America, when we want to silence
the bells, we extinguish
their open mouths
on our chests.
CAVE WALL PRESS, LLC
Maggie Smith is the author of, most recently, Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017) and Keep
Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change (One Signal/Simon & Schuster, 2020). Smith's
work has appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, the Paris Review, Poetry, Tin
House,and the Washington Post.