Letter to America by Kim Stafford

One Poem

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Dear America

If you were a tree, I would be a bud,
        clenching a feral secret.
If you were a river, I would be a raindrop
        sipped into your sweep.
If you were a mountain, I would be a pebble,
        a fulcrum, your pivot.
If you were a water cannon, I would be
        ice on a braid of gray.
If you were tear gas, I would weep for you.
If you were a wall, I would be a dreamer
        yearning to breathe free.
If you were an oil well, I would be a cup of water.
If you were a power grid, I would be sunlight
        on a child’s hand.
If you were a century, I would be one breath,
        striving to speak my honest syllable.
If you were an empire, I would be the remote village
        keeping to the old ways.
If you were a grandmother, I would be the child
        who brings you tea.
If you were a billionaire, I would be a simple gift.
If you were a legend, I would be the minor character
        the hero sees standing by the road in witness.
If you were a patriotic song, I would be the late verse
        remembered only by the elders, hummed at evening.
If you were a prison guard, I would be Mandela’s
        slow step, setting the pace in spite of chains.
If you were a long migration, I would be a seed
        to sustain two wings.
If you were the great change, I would be one
        of the myriad beginnings.
If you were a sorrow, I would be a glimmer.
If you were in recovery, I would leave food on your step.
If you were a grand parade, I would be one
        of the unseen singers.
If you were a war, I would bring food to the widows.
If you were a tyranny, I would vote for kindness.
If you were the arc of history, I would bend
        my life toward justice.
If you were a declaration of independence,
        I would pledge allegiance to interdependence.
If you pursued happiness for a few, I would ask about the many.
If you were a tower, I would be a pilgrim’s tent.
If you were a bold proclamation, I would be a whispered testament.
If you were a phone, I would be a voice to make it matter.
If you were the greed of one generation, I would be the need
        of the seventh generation.
If you were the way it was, I would be the way it could be.
If you were a disaster, we could count our blessings.
And if you thought you were my enemy, I would ask
        about your children.




Kim StaffordKim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, and author of Having Everything Right: Essays of Place (P H A R O S Editions, 2016).
Read poetry by Kim Stafford previously appearing in Terrain.org. 

Header photo of statue of liberty at sunset by Amerlion, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Kim Stafford by Perrin Kerns.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.