the honeyed river of summer

the honeyed river of summer
flows through my open window
as I drive home through Nisqually
dust in my eyes
and shadows on my tongue

I’ve been watching all the omens:
a pregnant fish split open
a flock of gulls headed to the mountains
I hear that raven finally stole the sun
now that everything else has already been stolen

lives, and land, and time, and tongues
all thrifted goods, lined up and categorized
on the side of an imperial road
where fast cars, overcrowded
force themselves slow

if you want to live in stolen times like these
you’d better have poetry writhing under your skin
it gives the human heart some mettle
it gives the mortal coil some context

The context that poetry brings is life giving, revolution birthing, hope reviving. I don’t know how I would have handled this ugly 4th of July without Langston Hughes’ words echoing in my head:

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

I’ve read that poem on every 4th of July for many years now. It’s the only answer I have to the saccharine propaganda of American history classes and the murderous, genocidal reality. Over and over, Hughes created a space to revel in that dream, refuse the attached lies, and demand a better world. Now, more than ever, we need that space.

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