Dear America

it practically leaves me speechless: this retrograde that renders you blind
American the beautiful—this happens under your name time after time

that’s what I am talking about
       that’s what I am talking about

tell me when I can stop on one hand counting black faces
in movies set in the glistening metropolis—tell me why it’s normal

                that is what I’m talking about
                          that is what I am talking about

listen up: I am not them or other a mob or color
the only pronouns that fit are: I and me personally

                                       that is what I’m talking about
                                             when I want you to hear

look at your reflection in the mirror—own your mistakes
do you have the constitution for it?

                                                            that is what you hear
                                                                      when I’m talking

say it is not all right (alright) not right to push the laws back
when half of the real story has yet to be told

                                                                            talking about that
                                                                                   talking shade

can you hear me America?—the same old same old
all this chaos and no disorder not for sale

                                                                            can you hear me
                                                                                talking at you?

how many died to get us here: boys dead girls disappeared
sheets wearing suits—the rest weeping when the horsemen come

                                                                                       I’m talking about
                                                                                            who’s not
                                                                                               talking, America



Colleen J. McElroyColleen J. McElroy lives in Seattle, Washington. Winner of the 1985 Before Columbus American Book Award in poetry for Queen of the Ebony Isles, McElroy’s most recent collction of poems, Sleeping with the Moon (2007), received a 2008 PEN/Oakland National Literary Award, and Here I Throw Down My Heart (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), was a finalist for the Binghampton University Milt Kessler Book Award, the Walt Whitman Award, the Phyllis Wheatley Award, and the Washington State Governor’s Book Award. Her latest collections of creative nonfiction include A Long Way from St. Louie (travel memoirs), and Over the Lip of the World: Among the Storytellers of Madagascar (finalist in the 2000 PEN USA Research-based Creative Nonfiction category). Recently, her work has been featured in The Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry, Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Best American Poetry, Black Renaissance Noire, torch, and Many of her poems have been translated into Russian, Italian, Arabic, Greek, French, German, Malay, and Serbo-Croatian. Her tenth collection of poetry, Blood Memory, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2016.
Read poetry by Colleen J. McElroy previously appearing in

Header photo of the stars of the U.S. flag by tookapic, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Colleen J. McElroy by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

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