Oh America

I loved you from afar so fiercely, you couldn’t know

how many nights I held the dream of America in my chest

a bird without a cage it seemed, a land of freedom and white teeth

in my country, we didn’t have the Mall or the bright colors of America

you could spot American’s disembarking on vacation in our little, sickly countries

their healthy glow, their confidence , their sense of possibility

was a heat wave!

Back then, we had corrugated iron fences, shutting off bombed out buildings

whose sad faces reminded us of near defeat; weeds stretching over decades

as we tried to recover from the unrecoverable; war, war, war

we had pealing linoleum floors, that smelt of cheap disinfectant

in poorly stocked walk-in-clinics, where children got sick living

in soot filled basements and drinking sorrowful city water

America seemed an oasis in our reality; a sanctuary, far-flung dream

I remember the first time I visited, wearing my best jeans, even as I didn’t possess

the prerequisite va-va-voom; even though my hems were fraying, split ends

driven in giant cars, down wide roads with raucous liberate laughter

huge mouths painted red, we entered thunderdome

lined with palm trees, drinking root-beer and eating Taco Bell

listening to Bruce Springsteen and movie soundtracks super loud

and I, so young then, fell hard for America and all her additives

all her happy people and endless possibilities, her sand dune beaches

I even fell for her technicolor, the sunlight that seemed to be

infusing the very future; I told my grandmother:

One day I will go to America and I will make it my home

and America I did stay, though you were never home to me

by then you were not so generous …

you didn’t open your doors and welcome those who sought you

nor treat people who were born in your lap, with equality

you seemed if anything, like you were turning away from light

going back to something you were once ashamed of

and America? I see my grave mistake

when things like tacos and root beer were my float

and I didn’t think of what else would matter down the road

and I didn’t imagine a future then, too addicted to escape

or how adult life would really be once we grew up

I was running you see, like so many of us, blind and scared

those of us who end washed up on your balmy shores

in fact maybe America? That’s the way it’s always been?

From the indigenous people who years before us all

came searching, away from the cold, wrapped in furs

only to be murdered by new arrivals centuries later

spilling from in small boats, seeking religious ‘freedom’

as they hunted

their incessant greed and need to own, branding the way

maybe America, your very foundations were built

on people fleeing, washing up on your shores

and intermittently you were kind

and intermittently you were cruel

so when you stole back women’s right to choose

America, I wished I had never sought you at all

when I sickened eating your fast-food and your fast-attitude

I regretted my choice, but I had one, a choice that is

and now you’ve taken that away for half your country

half a country who believed in you and would say;

America is the most amazing country in the world!

Now, the saddest part is, I only find ways to leave

because it is said; you can never regret if you learn from your mistakes

but I regret learning who you really, truly are

I regret putting you on a pedestal, the way most of the world

once did

America the great, America the fine, America the just

which you could have been

if only… you didn’t press your lips tight, until they lost all color

and declare yourself a tyrant

joining all the other tyrants this world possesses

and letting us know

there is no freedom here.

7 Replies to “Tyrant”

  1. Every day, I pray a little harder to be able to stomach this nation:

    “I see my grave mistake

    when things like tacos and root beer were my float

    and I didn’t think of what else would matter down the road

    and I didn’t imagine a future then, too addicted to running

    or how adult life would really be once we grew up”

    I am certain you are not alone.

  2. How I wish, my friend, that we could have lived up to your (and our own) illusions, the best of our mythology, or that we still might somehow. But sadly, too many who dream themselves into that Shining City On A Hill circle it with fortress walls and their New Jerusalem now more and more resembles the old one, so fought over for so long.

  3. This is such a heartfelt plea for truly looking at ourselves in the mirror, instead of at our navels or up our arses. Only adolescents have the excuse of being hiidwinked by American ‘values’. Grown-ups should see them for what they are—selfish, self-absorbed, greedy tyranny.
    I think you put your finger on the root problem. The country was founded by a religious cult that wasn’t fleeing religious oppression. It was moving to pastures new, because it didn’t think the Protestants in power in the UK were oppressive and intolerant enough. So they founded a new colony where they could be as oppressive and intolerant as they wanted. Result—the present-day US.

  4. Poignant and powerful verses on a tragic downfall for such an idealised nation – beautifully penned, Candice!

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