Can we make America great just once?

Can we make America great just once?
We’ve seen iridescent glimmers
In Reconstruction, Thomas Jefferson’s pen,
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address and his sending troops to Little Rock
In JFK’s and Obama’s elections,
In Biden’s first weeks, nullifying a racist autocrat’s policies
In the antiwar movement’s push to keep the US out of World War I
In Emma Goldman’s smile, Woody Guthrie’s guitar and Claudette Colvin’s bus seat
In the holiness of MLK, Franz Wright and Leadbelly’s voice
In the magic of all-night Beat 42nd Street cafeterias in Times Square
In the defiance of Ilhan Omar and Gabe Sterling
In the perseverance of William Dawes and Paul Revere
In the protests of Thoreau, Abbie Hoffman and the Black Panthers
In the written word of Whitman, Plath, Kerouac and Toni Morrison

America’s been great, with open arms to immigrants and
the ease of starting new businesses
But a swarthy shadow often deluges the American face,
casting the country into a gray-pit cauldron, steaming with misery –
In countless KKK lynchings, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance,
World War II-era Japanese American concentration camps,
anti-Semitic institutional barriers and anti-Irish riots,
hundreds of years of black slavery and Native American genocide, followed by
Jim Crow, mass incarceration, reservations and casino compensation

America, I beseech you –
Can you grasp onto luminescent moths in scintillating campfire while purging the boot-on-neck shadow?
Can you indoctrinate reason, reality and decency so that future racists won’t subvert it?
Can you lasso the sun and not treat poorer nations like dirt?
Can you capture the internal flickering flame, so that Lady Liberty’s torch isn’t blown out by harsh winds, and perseveres eternally?

As a prolific author from the Boston area, Peter F. Crowley writes in various forms, including short fiction, op-eds, poetry and academic essays. In 2020, his poetry book Those Who Hold Up the Earth was published by Kelsay Books and received impressive reviews by Kirkus Review, the New Age and two local Boston-area newspapers. His writing can be found in Middle East Monitor, Znet, 34th Parallel, Pif Magazine, Galway Review, Digging the Fat, Adelaide’s Short Story and Poetry Award anthologies (finalist in both) and The Opiate. His books That Night and Other Stories (CAAB Publishing) and Empire’s End (Alien Buddha Press) were released during the week of Friday the 13th in October 2023. Read other articles by Peter F..