by Joanne Merriam
Eligibility for Citizenship
Mom and apple pie and ice cream and bondage gear and mannequins in lingerie. Pharmaceuticals and donuts for breakfast. White-washed stone boundaries and psalms and hamburgers and a high-speed car chase. Lady Liberty and a Bible and a Constitutional amendment and pom-poms. America, more a philosophy than a country, changes every time we glance away. Until we fear bright lights, open meadows, the silence we sense comes before something else.
And why shouldn't we? Fear gift-wrapped packages, crowds at shopping centers, chemical responses. Fear the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. Fear men in black and their helicopters. High fructose corn syrup, whey solids, mono- and diglycerides. Fear Corvettes and blondes and mayonnaise and fabric softener. Slow-motion replays. Wrinkle-free blouses. Pit bulls kept in cages and fed on shadows. Until our smiles all remind you of burnt-down houses.
No more qualms. Let's drop all the decorative u's from our words. Let's sand down that accent. Let's stone the man behind the podium. Let's stand on the moon. Let's settle the national debate over whether it's soda or coke or pop once and for all. Let's water the desert and plant it with stars. Let's taunt the sky. Let's fry bananas in peanut butter. Let's, undaunted, remain calm.
Until we realize finally we're in America now: we can eat whatever we want.
The Trendelenburg Position
The hard rain is about to begin.
Cloth mutters against my skin,
mouth open as the bombed-out windows of a mosque,
Remember the shadow of the forest that rims your lawn,
the fluttering fireflies flashing off and on.
We're rabbits in mesh-sided cells.
It's light all of the time.
My heart beating frantic fistfuls of stuttering.
We'll Call Them Martyrs
First, a smell like offal, then sweet apples, then eggs.
Wringing their eyes with slack fists, their fingers fishhooks,
the children begin throwing up and weeping.
Smoke huddles over the baroque and broken stone balconies.
The sun heats the windows. A jeep meets a wall.
The pomegranate leaves fall all at once in muddled heaps.
The old people heaving. One touches some of the powder.
Her skin begins bubbling, seeping.
The smoke eats the road.
A baby cuddled on the ground against his mother.
It looks like they're sleeping.
It looks like everyone is sleeping.
Joanne Merriam is an immigrant living in Tennessee. Her poetry has appeared in Alba, Coyote Wild and The Fiddlehead. You can find her online at joannemerriam.com.