“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (arranged for Brazen Bull)

A Greek device used to torture . . . the Brazen Bull
had an acoustic setup that converted human screams into
the sound of a bull . . . [through] a complex system of tubes and stops
— Medieval Chronicles

 
Bellow and bellicose    and the men    and the man’s crying
on the stand    red-faced arrogant even in distress    are furnacing
hot new foundries in the news      melting the metals they have
always melted     and women are singing in the burning bronze
and also   and also me and the time I was six    and twenty and twelve and forty 
and I believe   and of thee I sing   of the scared-into and the clamped-quiet 
woods of shame   bottle shatter and condoms’    spent fireworks’
rocket-red glare in another song   that is not the song the women 
sing in the key of keys-spiked-from-fists for the last three blocks  and the dream
of another door   sweet land of liberty  of thee of me   in the burning
beast where whoever stokes the fire and turns the knob
is righteous   is the liberty bell’s hard shell   in the land of our fathers
our fathers our fathers   the clapper of the women’s laced boots
the women’s high heels   the women’s bare feet   that do not sound like bells
from inside    that do not sound like singing     but the snorting
of ancient pipes to the tubes to the sky of I don’t believe   and she was paid
and she wants   she only   she    sweet sweet land     sweet lamb
of a girl in the quiet that was never quiet  in the prolonged burning
of the woods and the rills that is just a pretty word for a stream
where a girl should take off her clothes and the bull will come  the bear
will come in his suit of a beast and will be a prince inside so the girl should
kneel to be pawed    to be eaten   to believe he is who he says he is
and she should love him when he takes his fur off      and her mortal 
tongue should wake to sing as it melts   of the pilgrims’ pride    that she’s saved 
for him in the templed hills of the dark bronze body that is not
her body closed and cast into a form around her where she cries and it bellows
Great God our king and our fathers’ God to thee and thee and let
freedom ring through its nose    and its breath    and the piped-to-silence
steam of her voice    hot enough inside to break the rocks.

 

 

   

Alexandra TeagueAlexandra Teague is the author of Or What We’ll Call Desire (Persea, 2019), The Wise and Foolish Builders, and Mortal Geographyas well as the novel The Principles Behind Flotation. She is also co-editor of Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun ViolenceAlexandra teaches in the MFA program at University of Idaho and is currently on sabbatical in Wales.
 
 
 
 
 

Header photo by Olga_i, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Alexandra Teague by Dylan Champagne.

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