‘Tis of Thee

From my tirade about how my countrymen are treating President Obama you can probably tell I have been thinking about the United States a lot lately. And though this is the land of opportunity and I’m so glad to have been born here, I realize that the country’s foundation is uneven. For instance, on one slab the United States was built on Judeo-Christian values and on another slab it was built upon the backs of enslaved Africans. That’s an uneven foundation because Jesus Christ does not approve of the type of slavery that our ancestors experienced. Certainly there are other events that have contributed to our country’s foundation being uneven, but the promotion of Christian ideals while promoting something opposite of a Christian ideal is a standout contradiction for me. Anyway, when your foundation is unstable, there’s going to be a lot of quaking going on, literally and figuratively, both of which we now see happening in the United States. To call more attention to this uneven foundation and the quaking it’s causing, I want you to let my literary love speak to you through his poem “’Tis of Thee”:

You are oversized, you are overrated, you are overblown,
fat and filled with hardened rocks.
You are sick and stumbling like an old man without
a stick in the mud.
You make me sick to my stomach, and I am sad
that I have to look at you.
You have eaten too much garlic
And drunk too much beer,
And built too many empty churches.
You are fat with starch and lies.

Your steeled cities range like malignant cancers across
The belly of your land.
Your sons race death in metal machines that
defecate poison into the air.
Your ideas are machine made,
your values operated by machines
your truths nourished by machines,
your history written by machines,
your language sounds like millions of coins jingling
into an empty barrel.
Your heroes are dead.
Your wars are massacres.
You are an overkiller,
oversexed, overripe, overrotten.

You are a sinful old man who has no repentance
in his heart,
a lecherous old winebelly vomiting blood.
You are a murderer of your sons
and a raper of your daughters.
You are cold and filled with death.
Few flowers grow from your gardens
and the snow and the ice shall be your grave.

You are a despiser of black and misunderstander of white.
You are a mystery of yourself and a hater of that.
You once were a star that blazed,
but now you are overcivilized, oversterilized, oversated.
If you were a barren tree in my garden
I would come and cut you down.

By Henry Dumas
From Knees of a Natural Man
Copyright 1989 by Loretta Dumas and Eugene B. Redmond
Published by Thunder’s Mouth Press

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