Come Home, America!

Come home, America!
The children are in need!
Come home, America!
The Soul of the World is bleeding!

“For purple mountains’ majesty,”
I sang in my pressed, white shirt.
“Above the fruited plains. …”
Ten years before the Kennedys,
before MLK and Vietnam,
during the Cold War
and before the Gulf War—
so many wars I’ve lost track of them all!

Come home, America!
The children are bleeding!

Just to say your name was glory—
“America, America,
God shed his grace on thee–”

200 fervent voices sang—
the entire school assembly
of that public school in Queens, New York.
Girls in plaid skirts and white kneesocks,
white blouses and primly-waved curls;
boys with ties and military crew-cuts—
all of us singing, standing, after “The Pledge of Allegiance,”
while the “Honor Guard” saluted the flag.

Rock and roll was just beginning to rock.
I played Cowboys and Indians and King of the Mountain,
“Monopoly” when the weather turned;
had a cork gun and a BB rifle,
played “soldiers” with my younger brother
over whose limp body I wept
(before we both laughed and went home to eat).

Suddenly, the principal was on the P.A.—
interrupting numerals and decimals,
long division and objects of pronouns—
“Take cover!” he said, in stentorian tones;
and we dove under wood and iron-fringed desks—
caged and fluttering like chickens,
old enough to be scared of dying
because some lousy Russian commie
hated “freedom” and mom and pop,
apple pie and what we loved.
I covered my head in my cubicle,
turning away from the windows and light.

“And crowned thy good
with brotherhood”

(we raised our voices high)
“from sea to shining sea.”

We sang full-throated, not knowing what
“brotherhood”–even “goodness”—meant,
while we gorged on comic-book wars and glory.

Come home, America!
The children are crying!
Come home, America!
The Soul of the World is bleeding!

One thousand bases around the world.
But we’re no Empire, our “leaders” chime.
Still making the world “safe for democracy”—
Whatever that is… seems we’ve run out of time.

No time for kids, no time for each other.
Everyone in their “personal space,”
but clashing and crashing and trashing the other,
armed to the fangs we show to the world.
Gotta get ahead, gotta get ahead, gotta get ahead—
the constant thrumming, drumming in our skulls.
Song of a train-wreck skirling, repeating.

“From sea to shining sea”—
we’re fracking… and cracking
the continental shelf;
we’re tracking our drones
with eyes in the sky,
killing long-distance—
no need for a sigh.

We can watch them die,
shaking under our rattling guns,
or vaporized in a puff of smoke—
“collateral damage” (it’s just a joke!)–
then go home to dinner—cardboard in cardboard,
ketchup on the side,
high fructose corn syrup straight down the gullet,
watch a game with the kids
(more likely, alone).

Come home, America!

Did we fight the Redcoats for “liberty”?
“Freedom” from what? “Freedom” for what?
Invent a Constitution for
inanities of the popular tripe?
“Happiness” enshrined
like a meme in the mind—
another can to kick down
the long and winding, terminal road?

What should it profit a man, the Sage said,
to gain the whole world at the cost of his soul?

Religion, we said, has no place in our commons.
Did we have to throw out morality, too?
No point to our lives except more and more?
The one with the most toys wins?

Come home, America.
The children are dying!

Gary Corseri has published articles, fiction, poetry and dramas at hundreds of venues worldwide, including, Dissident Voice and The New York Times. He has published novels and collections of poetry, edited the Manifestations anthology, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has taught at US public schools and prisons and at US and Japanese universities. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. Gary can be reached at: gary_corseri@comcast.net. Read other articles by Gary.